Sunday, May 28, 2006

Menlo Park

Below are some interesting results of Community Collaboration activities at Menlo Park in USA. We have been discussing various ways of improving the Tahtitaajamat Collaboration with electronical collaboration tools. The second part of this blog is giving a good example of that from the same place -- Menlo Park.

Results of the Workshops

Approximately 225 people participated in a series of community budget workshops held on February 9, 11 and 15. Participants were separated into small groups to discuss various options for reducing service levels or increasing fees and taxes. Acting much as a City Council and with the help of trained facilitators, the groups considered the impacts of each option, and voted on which ones to recommend to the City Council to close the $2.9 million budget shortfall.

Direct input and participation

Many participants expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to provide the Council with direct input and commented on the difficulty of making such important choices. Like survey respondents, workshop participants preferred to balance the budget using both reduced spending and increased taxes. On average, the small groups at the workshops recommended reducing net service cost (either by cutting services or increasing fees) by $1.6 million and increasing taxes by $1.3 million.


Menlo


The City’s program to stream video of Menlo Park City Council meetings online 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week has been extended through September 2006. The pilot project, which was funded by a $50,000 grant from the Midpeninsula Community Media Center, was originally slated for six months, but will now run for a full year.

The program to give computer users access to video of Council meetings has been an important success, according to City Clerk Silvia Vonderlinden. “It gives people the ability to go online and view live or archived meetings that they may have missed,” she says.

“This promotes accessibility to Council deliberations. The technology allows people viewing archived meetings to go right to a particular topic of discussion and watch just that portion. If you have a computer, you have full access 24/7 from anywhere in the world to your Council’s actions.”

The Media Center

The Media Center has been tracking how many people are using the new service. Since the program was initiated, there have been 750 visits to the site during live Council broadcasts and 1,128 visits to the site to view archived Council meetings.

Anyone interested in viewing Council meetings online will need QuickTimeTM streaming software. Computer users can access live broadcasts, or search the archives for previous broadcasts, by going to
Anyone who views the webcasts is encouraged to help evaluate the service by filling out a survey that is available online.
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