With the successful Chicago municipal election project receding in the rear view mirror, EnCiv has its sights set on the next stage in its development: a thorough experimental program to test the various tools that will make up an integrated civic prototype to present to potential funders. The testing program is likely to receive a big boost in founders Will Ferguson and IF Fellow Adolf Gundersen’s home town of La Crosse, Wisconsin.
For some months, Ferguson and Gundersen have been exploring a variety of participatory budgeting and/or planning exercises with neighborhood groups in La Crosse to allocate municipal dollars and/or create plans for neighborhoods, the downtown, and the City as a whole.
Ferguson and Gundersen are excited about many aspects of this collaborative opportunity:
- The real-world nature and scale of at least some of the exercises involved
- The significant resources already available to them for on-the-ground recruiting (which the Chicago project again confirmed are critical) through personal connections and those of their principal partner, La Crosse Neighborhoods, Inc. (LCNI), an umbrella group representing all of the City’s neighborhood associations (lacrosseneighborhoods.org)
- The freedom it will afford them to test multiple discussion, decision, and feedback tools as well as a variety of recruiting strategies
- The probability that initial tests will lead to growing citizen engagement over time
More generally, since participatory budgeting does not typically involve the kind of exploration and interaction that are central to the IF process, EnCiv’s work in La Crosse will thus be not only important to its own development, but innovative in its own right—emblematic of the kind of civic integration EnCiv is seeking to develop and can be expected to lead to more and better civic engagement.