Smart Communities Part of Mayor's Digital Town Hall
Rosalind Moore, Englewood's Smart Communities program manager, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel as he lets the press know what he thinks of the Town Hall meeting.
Dozens of South Side residents gathered on June 30 at Kennedy-King College, where in the city’s first Facebook town hall meeting, they grilled Mayor Rahm Emanuel on issues ranging from community safety to job growth.
What made the gathering unique? The participants at this innovative digital gathering hail from one of Chicago's most underserved regions, where personal computers are scarce, Internet access is rare and the technological skills of residents trend well below those of other Chicago neighborhoods and the nation.
But residents are end-running those obstacles thanks to Smart Communities, a cooperatively run amalgamation of community groups that works to punch through economic and structural obstacles to broadband and digital technology. Residents can get basic computer training – and much more, a rigorous immersion into digital access that's designed to help them puncture the digital divide. The effort trains residents of all ages in "everyday digital" skills and gives them a leg up in accessing tech-related work through a mix of on-site FamilyNet Centers, a Digital Youth Network and Community Portals that open these neighborhoods up to the larger digital world beyond their borders.
Norma Sanders (right), the Smart Communities manager for the Southwest Smart Communities Initiative, works with residents during the meeting in Englewood.
At Kennedy-King, that included hands-on participation through Twitter and Facebook in one of the nation's first virtual person-to-person exchanges with a big-city mayor.
"This is a shining example of what Smart Communities is all about," said Rosalind Moore of Teamwork Englewood, who serves as Englewood's Smart Communities program manager. "We are part of the conversation now. We are letting the Mayor know what we think--digitally."
Pierre Jones, 15, of Englewood is a member of the Digital Youth Network and is spending part of his summer learning how to build a website. He submitted several questions to the online town hall forums – mainly about economic development and public safety issues in his neighborhood – and voted on which questions the mayor should be asked. "This was a good opportunity for my voice to be heard," he said.
Englewood resident and Everyday Digital graduate April Lawson talked with the press after the event.
April Lawson, of Auburn Gresham, is a graduate of Smart Communities' Everyday Digital and Civics 2.0 classes, where she learned how to use the Internet and social media to become more engaged as a community member. She attended the event at Kennedy-King and said of Mayor Emanuel, "I feel like I can Twitter him and I'll get an actual response."
After the online portion of the town hall ended, Mayor Emanuel stopped by the classroom where the Smart Communities participants had gathered to thank them for participating – and encourage them to build on their growing digital access to empower their families and their communities.
Residents from the Pilsen and Humboldt Park Smart Communities programs also participated. Humboldt Park created a live blog during the event.
Posted in Smart Communities News