Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Carrie Shaw's Profile

carriehshaw (at) comcast (dot) net
Carrie Shaw has 19 years of experience in the areas of public relations and public affairs. She has implemented and directed national, regional, and statewide public relations projects for nonprofit organizations and businesses, and directed public affairs campaigns on a regional level.

Among her many projects, she spearheaded the national media and fundraising launch for an award-winning public service advertising campaign on the issue of fatherhood featuring actor James Earl Jones. The ad received the National Academy of Television Arts and Science Emmy Award, the highest for a PSA.

Her civic involvement includes past volunteer work in recreation therapy at Children's Hospital in Seattle, local speaker for Family Life Seminars, and being a reading tutor in her local school district. She is a graduate of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University.

Website: http://socialcapitalreview.org

Carrie Shaw's Recent Posts

Over 650 Voices Have Joined The King County Budget Debate: How About You?

October 22nd, 2010

This is the final week to take the online survey and attend in-person forums on King County’s budget crisis through Countywide Community Forums. Over the past four weeks, we have presented the $63 million dollar question: Do we cut costs, or do we raise more tax revenue to fill the budget gap?

Over 650 people from around the county representing diverse communities and interests have weighed in on the budget shortfall. I’ve had the pleasure of attending and facilitating a number of these forums and have to say, that despite what would be the typical divide among the broad based camps of program cuts versus tax increases, there is an undeniable consensus emerging. Yes, there are strong opinions in many corners that generating revenues and new tax sources are essential to save existing programs, or that cutting programs, or labor costs are the way to go. But what has emerged over the past four weeks is a collective understanding that we can’t keep doing things the way we have always done it in the past.

What has emerged… is a collective understanding that we can’t keep doing things the way we have always done it in the past.

You don’t have to agree on everything to know that asking the right questions of our elected officials starts with the attitude of “why not?” It’s a point of accountability between those who govern and the governed where every question begins with the premise that the status quo is no longer acceptable. The substance of the forums and online discussions has not just been about cutting this program or saving that program, but about the broader issues of “how” and “why” King County government does what it does.

Here is a sampling of comments and questions from some of the Countywide Community Forum (CCF) meetings:

- King County is structured on a government model from the 1950s. We need to look at restructuring county government that takes into account regional services such as transportation or sewage treatment, and those services that are duplicated locally or by the state.

- Why doesn’t the county utilize volunteers such as retirees with skill sets and experience that can meet program needs and lower labor costs?

- If health care costs for employees are the largest contributor to the structural budget gap, why hasn’t that been addressed?

- Why do we still have such a regressive tax system, when there are existing alternatives to collecting taxes that are both fairer and less volatile during economic downturns?

- Why do we spend so much on public safety and prosecuting criminals when there are programs and nonprofit organizations that have a successful record of preventing criminal behavior especially in young people?

- Why did King County not implement the cost-saving measures recommended by the state Auditor and make the necessary changes in how agency and program money is tracked and outcomes are measured for success?

- Why do we not use a zero-based budgeting structure to help determine where the money is best allocated?

- Why are we asking the employees who actually deliver services to cut their salaries first instead of cutting mid and upper-level management positions and salaries of political appointees?

From the individuals, business groups, nonprofits, and community organizations that have joined this round of CCF forums, it is apparent that people care deeply about the role and scope of government, and the services that King County provides. Councilmember Julia Patterson captures this belief when she says in the CCF budget video, “Maybe the pressure to balance the budget will mean that we come up with better ways of doing things.”

That’s an outcome I want to see. Are you a part of this conversation? Take the survey today. It’s available until this Saturday, Oct. 23rd.

How $3 Billion Can Really Focus Your Attention

July 29th, 2010

There are new three R’s of government: Reset, reinvent, and reallocate. From The Seattle Times’ Reset 2010 series on the editorial page, to Governor Christine Gregoire’s online public comment tool “Transforming Washington’s Budget” everyone at every level of government is talking about public expectations, budgets, and economic realities.

Some would call it a budget crisis and some would call it a budget correction, but everyone agrees, a looming state budget shortfall of $3 billion has a way of creating a tight focus on the problem. And it doesn’t stop with the 2011 budget cycle. Estimates for 2013-2015 have the state $5 to $6 billion in the red. It is an unprecedented problem, and unlike the federal government, states can’t print more money as a temporary fix.

The outlook for King County isn’t good either, with red ink projected upwards of $60 million for the upcoming 2011 budget. That’s a lot of money and has people asking the question, “where does the $5 billion King County spends actually go?” Below are pie charts from the King County website that show 87 percent goes to dedicated funds (top one) and about 13 percent goes toward the general fund for public safety, law, and justice (second pie). Read the rest of this entry »

Can Media Build Social Capital?

July 7th, 2010

According to Hanson Hosein, Director of Digital Media at the University of Washington, media academics are now discussing the potential of new media as a platform for the development of social capital — the bridging and bonding that occurs between individuals in online communities who share common values and opinions, or who “bridge” differences by seeking to understand different perspectives. In a media marketplace that’s increasingly niche-oriented and capable of widening rather than narrowing existing ideological divides, development of that potential is important for the greater good.

Hanson Hosein

This theme arose recently when I attended a fascinating discussion hosted by Hosein with local media leaders for the City Club of Seattle’s Rapid Response Series. The event was titled: “Revenue models in the changing media landscape.” Key themes emerged on how the news ecosystem has forever changed and how new revenue sources are still working themselves out. The discussion and audience comments brought out a common refrain — “we’ll find out five years down the road if this or that revenue model becomes viable.”

Everyone agreed that there is a desire within the general public for objective news sources. A free and independent press is vital to the health of any democracy. Trusted and objective news sources are necessary to foster an informed citizenry, just as social “bridging” opportunities between individuals are necessary to foster empathy, understanding, and tolerance. It is that place of trust, where traditional and new media fill the role as social capital arbiter.

Panelists did address the baseline issue of staying independent from the overt influences of funding sources.

They stressed that that they as individuals and organizations maintain a firewall between revenue sources and journalism. Yet there was little direct discussion on the current lack of public trust that media provide fair and accurate news and information. Another perspective is helpful. The Pew Research Center for People & The Press has been following public attitudes toward the media in the key areas of accuracy, fairness, and independence since 1985.

When it comes to accuracy, the press has hit a two-decade low since Pew began evaluating the topic.

Only 29 percent of Americans say that news organizations generally get the facts straight, while 63 percent say that news stories are often inaccurate. And while Internet news sources are getting all the attention, 71 percent of Americans still get their news and information from television. However last December, for the first time, Pew reported that more people said they got more of their national and international news from the Internet than from newspapers. The Pew survey also noted that little has changed since 1985 when it came to whether the press overall was viewed as liberal or conservative, with about twice as many people viewing the press as liberal vs. conservative.

The most disturbing finding to me was on whether the media is viewed as independent from “powerful people and organizations.” According to Pew, “nearly three-quarters (75%) say news organizations are influenced by powerful people and organizations compared with 20 percent who say they are independent.” In 1985 that difference was much less, (53% to 37%). As trust declines and media continues to fragment, many Americans prioritize sources which validate their existing opinions or bias. Perhaps we’ve largely written off creation of social capital and informational bridges through media channels, though that would be a worrisome concession.

Delivering on the issues of accuracy, fairness, and independence would go a long way in restoring public trust. Exposure to “both or all sides” of an issue and accurate reporting of news events should build common ground and greater understanding among citizens. And while that’s what we’re taught in journalism school in the pursuit of objective and thorough reporting, it is easier said than done.

As trust declines and media continues to fragment, many Americans prioritize sources which validate their existing opinions or bias. Perhaps we’ve largely written off creation of social capital and informational bridges through media channels, though that would be a worrisome concession.

If the issue is greater transparency, then there need to be industry standards set that can apply to the many emerging revenue models supporting journalism. If the issue is more about professional ethics, then journalism as a profession needs to have that discussion and make some changes or these negative trends will only continue.

Paying Tribute To Local Heroes Of Open Government

May 31st, 2010

A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.
James Madison, letter to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822

Though written 188 years ago, this quote from James Madison could easily serve as a mission statement today for the numerous nonprofit organizations and citizen-based blogs and websites dedicated to ensuring more open government practices and transparency. Madison is often referred to as the “Father of the United States Constitution.” His priceless contributions to the founding of the nation include co-authoring along with John Jay and Alexander Hamilton the Federalist Papers which apart from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution itself, provided the philosophical framework and intellectual justification for the Bill of Rights and government we know today.

It is therefore fitting that one of the state’s top government watchdog groups. Washington Coalition for Open Government, presents it’s highest honor each year in Madison’s name to an individual or organization that exemplifies a deep commitment to open government. Last year, Denny Heck and Stan Marshburn, founders of TVW, the nonprofit statewide public affairs television network were honored with WCOG’s James Madison Award for 2009. Known as the “C-SPAN of Washington,” TVW’s live broadcasts of legislative committee meetings and floor action and year-round coverage of public policy conferences and government meetings have helped to improve citizen awareness and access to the decision-making activities of state government. The TVW model is now spreading as more cities and municipalities are providing cable broadcasts of meetings and public hearings.
Nominations for the 2010 James Madison Award are being accepted up through June 30th. You can learn more by going to the Washington Coalition for Open Government website.

This region is nationally recognized for innovation in the area of public engagement. From the award-winning Countywide Community Forums to the Conversation Cafes and the City of Seattle’s Data.Seattle.Gov this region remains at the forefront of applying new technologies to strengthen the civic infrastructure and participatory democracy. So here’s to the open government heroes — past, present, and those whom will join this important effort in the future.

Beware Of Open Government Counterfeits

May 17th, 2010

As momentum builds behind open government initiatives, examples of politicians and bureaucrats playing the public transparency ruse are popping up more and more.

A recent opinion piece in the Washington Post by J.H. Snider highlighted how local government entities tend to be more entrenched in hindering public access to information as a means to protect bureaucratic turf and incestuous business-as-usual practices. Snider knows a bit about pushing from the outside against closed door democracy. As president of iSolon.org, Snider’s mission is to “focus on the most difficult areas of democratic reform─where elected officials have a conflict of interest in bringing about reforms that might reduce their own power.”

Snider sites the problem of “fake transparency,” or the efforts by public officials to “seek democratic legitimacy but not the accountability that comes with open government.”

The examples are numerous: secret meetings on controversial issues, destroying of emails, omitting documentation when posted online, excessive fees for document requests, personal intimidation and harassing phone calls — all firsthand experiences for Snider in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.

There’s no mincing of words with Snider — open government reforms are necessary because politicians want to protect their power and control over money and resources for their own benefit.

It’s the “presumption of guilt” position when it comes to human nature and the corrupting influence of power.

Locally, Washington Coalition for Open Government is taking the lead to guarantee public access and accountability through legislation, legal efforts, and education. President, Toby Nixon and former Seattle Times executive editor, Mike Fancher have led the charge with legal and legislative victories including the Supreme Court of the United States case involving state Referendum 71 and stopping efforts in the state Legislature to limit access to government and the people’s right to know.

Fortunately, technology is making the public crusades of people like Snider, Nixon, and Fancher and organizations like WCOG, iSolon.org or the National Freedom of Information Coalition true agents of change.

Despite the positive exposure and influence these leaders and their organizations are having, they know that the true change agents lie at the grassroots level. Open government initiatives will die the death of a thousand public relations campaigns unless “we the people” remain engaged, informed, and vigilant.

Our civic infrastructure is about people taking the time to connect with the democratic process. Now through June 13, you can be a change agent by exercising your right to participate in a Countywide Community Forum on the topic of Public Trust: Customer Service and Public Engagement.

Bring your voice to a forum.

Government 2.0 And The Anti-Borg

May 5th, 2010

The Facebook generation has a new “call to arms.” Yes, I am choosing to use a military metaphor in peacenik Seattle to emphasize my main point – that Web technology is an effective weapon in the battle against unresponsive government institutions, and public apathy and cynicism.

Parameters Infeasible

Recently on a segment of the long-running KUOW-FM “Weekday” show hosted by Steve Scher, Countywide Community Forums director, Matt Rosenberg joined other leaders within the civic engagement movement to discuss technology trends that are changing our day-to-day interaction with government. (Audio links and full transcript here).

Two things stuck out to me. One, that we’re about to experience a revolution in how we obtain and access information related to government service, and second; the idea of “service” as a value, will be the driving force behind whether the technology is used to heal our civic infrastructure or feed the vested interests that prefer the status quo.

Jennifer Pahlka of Code for America said it best, on the “Weekday” segment. “Cities are facing the kinds of problems that young talented Web designers and developers, who would maybe otherwise go to an Internet start-up, really know how to solve.”

“Cities are facing the kinds of problems that young talented Web designers and developers, who would maybe otherwise go to an Internet start-up, really know how to solve.”

Pahlka highlights the issues of collective intelligence, citizen engagement, and getting more people involved in civic opportunities. She refers to it as a “call to service” for those individuals who can spend a year building Web apps to help rebuild our civic infrastructure.

Now there’s a loaded phrase – collective intelligence. I’ll admit my first reaction was some creepy idea of Government Web 2.0 rendering citizens into soulless cybernetic Borgs replete with advanced data-mining of our all our movements, preferences, utterances and associations. But my reverie was cut short as I realized how valuable is this idea of collective intelligence. Most of all it’s about personalization, using technology – in this case public information – to enrich the quality of your life. It’s the the enabling of the anti-Borg via the Web, mobile devices and government data.

Imagine this. You’re made aware through an RSS feed that a burglary has occurred in your neighborhood. You’re able to notify the police that a blue van left moments ago and was heading south at excessive speed. Or, you’re planning a family celebration and your parks department has listed the best sites for family barbecues and online quick reservations. Inspecting them in person you see which look best and then using a mobile phone software application, on site, you check which are still actually available for your event. You secure your reservation there and then. Or, the highway off-ramp to your business is going to be closed for three weeks for construction – you know when, why, and how long this happens before it happens.

Making the information that government creates accessible and useful for our day-to-day lives is how you rebuild our civic infrastructure. The crux of all this is that the application and packaging of this information won’t come from government, it will come from the private sector. Just as all great inventions and breakthroughs have emerged from the free market, the great American tale from Henry Ford to Bill Gates is rewritten for each generation and the entrepreneur or nonprofit leader will point the way to better social and civic engagement.

Letting our elected officials know that this is what “we the people” want is an important starting point. That’s why I encourage you to participate in the current round of forums for King County. The topic is Public Trust: Customer Service and Public Engagement. It’s a starting point for government to reevaluate how best to interact with you and provide the information and services that you need. Don’t miss this opportunity from May 1 through June 13 to bring the civic engagement revolution to your neighborhood. New participants should register here.

RELATED LINKS:
Other organizations/sites featured on KUOW “Weekday” episode of 4/30/10
Code For America
Knowledge As Power
Public Data Ferret

Article in Crosscut
Openness Can Make Citizens Collaborators With Officials.”

Be Heard! Crack The Wall Of Public Cynicism May 1

April 27th, 2010

When I first heard that Countywide Community Forums was going to focus on customer service as a county initiative I was a little underwhelmed. With May 1 the starting date for these forums, I am now enthused and motivated to participate in my neighborhood forum.

Why the change in heart? Think about it. You and I interact and benefit from essential services provided by King County each and every day. From public transportation, roads, bridges, vital records, sewer services, the county courts, police, the list goes on, and on.

A government employee culture — starting at the top — that embraces and rewards the treatment of you and I as true “customers” can only mean a more responsive, and thus, a more representative government. Isn’t that why we spend human capital talking about, implementing, and researching successful models for public participation and open government initiatives?

CCF ad campaign in Publicola.net and Crosscut.com

Of course it is. Not only is the topic of customer service as a government value a legitimate issue, it underscores the broader conversation about public trust in government, or the lack thereof, as many people would want to point out.

Civic cynicism and non-participation in the democratic process is rooted in the belief that government officials are unresponsive and inaccessible. That is where the issue of trust is undeniable to the health and well being of our civic and public institutions.

So, one vote, one voice, one opinion. If it’s yours, than it’s one of life’s most valuable possessions. From May 1 through June 13, Countywide Community Forums is giving you the opportunity to be heard. Plug in here and register, to get started. Then, bring your voice to a forum and make a crack in the wall of public cynicism.

Hail Happy Warriors Jack Kemp, Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu

April 18th, 2010

They are called “happy warriors.” We know them as individuals who take on the big battles of social and political change, all the while keeping their sense of humor and humanity. A happy warrior understands the long term commitment and tedious nature of enduring social and political shifts and that the greatest internal threat to positive change is personal cynicism and malice toward the opposition.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Don’t get me wrong, this is not about laughing our way to a better tomorrow or setting loose the speech police. I’m not against anger – the U.S. Constitution codifies the idea of being ticked off at our government leaders with added citizen protection for what is called the “redress of grievances.”

We live in serious times that demand serious debates and solutions. But the state of our public discourse really bothers me.

It is the personal nature of attacks that bothers me — the name calling deployed as a first strike to marginalize dissenting opinions. And, unfortunately, the anonymity of the Internet feeds this vitriol. As adults, what kind of message are we sending our children? To the biggest loud mouth go the spoils and his own reality show?

Seattle Times columnist Jerry Large recently featured West Seattle author Paul Loeb who has chronicled successful community and social activism. Loeb says that it is all about being hopeful, “giving people permission to enjoy life as they are being active.” Loeb highlights such leaders as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and civil rights icon Rosa Parks as examples of people who stay joyful in the midst of serious and prolonged battles for justice and social change.

I spent several years working in Washington, D.C. in the 1980’s and early 1990s. Back then, spring marked the Congressional softball league. The Federal Mall would come alive with dozens of softball teams from every side of the political aisle. I was working for then-Rep. Jack Kemp; our team was the Kemp Tax Wackers and we faced off with Democrat teams like the “Equalizers.” Last I heard, the Congressional softball league is long gone, dying a symbolic death in an era of hyper-partisanship. Rep. Kemp never attacked people personally, but believed that the goal was to win the opposition over to a better idea. He was a happy warrior.

Former President Bill Clinton shared his concerns on ABC-TV’s “This Week” about personal rancor in the politcal dialogue.

“…..we ought to have a lot of political dissent — a lot of political argument. Nobody is right all the time. But we also have to take responsibility for the possible consequences of what we say. And we shouldn’t demonize the government or its public employees or its elected officials. We can disagree with them. We can harshly criticize them….But I worry about these threats against the president and the Congress. And I worry about …careless language..which we’ve seen against the Republican governor in New Jersey, Governor Christie.”

For leaders like Clinton, the late Jack Kemp, or change giants like Desmond Tutu the key is not to make the battle personal. For them the bigger picture means that the truth always prevails. In this age of hyper-partisanship and hyper-vitriol, we need more happy warriors who capture what so many lose, the joy of the journey.