The Better Alamance project is inspired by promising recent research of best practices for engaging citizens with one another and their governments. Better Alamance currently consists of three initiatives: a platform for prioritizing ideas to improve the community (Better Alamance: Ideas), a community wiki designed to promote local knowledge sharing (Better Alamance: Wiki), and a storytelling platform for curating interesting and meaningful stories from and about the community (Better Alamance: Stories).
BA: Ideas is a community platform for sharing ideas about how to the communities in Alamance County "better." The technical design of the system encourages collaborative approaches to solving problems and minimizes divisive rhetoric - yet also ensures that unpopular opinions can be voiced and heard. BA: Ideas is directly inspired by a similar project in Reykjavik, Iceland called Better Reykjavik.
We are piloting the platform and process over Summer 2014 in collaboration with the Downtown Burlington Corporation, and our team will be sharing the project in person at several events downtown including Active City Streets and 4th Fridays.
The open-source software that runs Better Alamance: Ideas is called Your Priorities, and its development can be followed on GitHub.
A wiki is a set of web pages that visitors are encouraged to edit from their browsers, and generally reflect updates and changes in real time. Wikipedia -- "the encyclopedia that anyone can edit" -- is likely the world’s largest and best-known wiki. A more recent development is the creation of "local wikis," or wikis that are focused on local, geographic communities. The Davis (California) Wiki is used by residents for everything from learning about local news and local history to helping return lost pets to their owners — and it's become the largest, most used media source in the city. Closer to home, the Triangle Wiki helps residents share information on topics ranging from places to plug in electric cars to the Hopscotch Music Festival.
BA: Wiki was launched in 2012 by Elon University students across several classes. Writing about local topics helps students better understand their new community, but also helps develop a community resource that outlasts their semester and even their time at Elon. We hope to see more community members contributing to the wiki and helping us build a useful, interesting, and fun respository of local knowledge.
In Spring 2014, the BA: Wiki was merged into the new global Localwiki initiative, aimed to make finding and sharing local information even easier and more useful.
The Better Alamance: Stories project is a new addition to the Better Alamance platform. The Stories project will be a central hub for audiovisual, multimedia and interactive storytelling projects. The platform will house media that is culled from archives, current events storytelling, student media project, and other community sources. The first Stories project, Fighting Poverty in Alamance County, was produced by an Interactive Media graduate student in collaboration with an undergraduate reporting class.
The Better Alamance project is a major undertaking with significant potential to improve civic engagement and democratic governance in Alamance County. Better Alamance is based on sound research and modeled on previously-successful projects. The project utilizes cutting-edge technologies, but recognizes that offline engagement by and among citizens is equally important.
We are looking forward to learning more about you and about our communities, and to helping build a Better Alamance.
The Better Alamance Team