PublicInput.com and Education NC received a $155,000 grant from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s News Integrity Initiative on Wednesday.
The shared grant will fund “Reach NC Voices,” an Education NC project aiming to survey citizens to understand their feelings toward issues in their communities. PublicInput.com is leading the technology buildout of the project.
Jay Dawkins, CEO of PublicInput.com, said the grant will allow the civic technology company to empower local journalists with its online engagement tools.
“We are trying to connect community-oriented news organizations with their constituents in a way that they can ask questions and dive deeper on an engagement level,” Dawkins said.
Raleigh-based PublicInput.com aims to help local municipalities engage the public through digital platforms, while also equipping decision-makers with accurate information regarding the public’s opinion.
The civic engagement service is currently being used in 16 communities across the nation, including large cities such as Austin, Miami, Cincinnati and San Diego.
Engagement from local news organizations is currently lacking in the U.S.
Though community-related content yields the highest rate of follow-up action from Americans, news organizations are the least effective channel for spurring such action, according to a 2016 Pew Research study.
“Reach NC Voices” will allow local news organizations to leverage PublicInput.com to increase their influence in the communities they serve.
Journalists are not the only beneficiaries of such emerging technologies. Civic tech is bridging the gap between the private and public sectors in the Triangle.
Chris Mathews, chief data scientist for Wake County government, spoke on the importance of such services, stating, “Government has too long tried to do things by interpreting what the community needs without actually interacting with them.”
“Civic tech allows us to more closely interact with the community to develop what the community wants and what the community needs,” Mathews said.
There is no shortage of opportunity for tech-minded engineers in the Triangle.
Raleigh experienced a 46.9 percent increase in tech industry jobs between 2006-2016, one of the highest rates in the country, according to Forbes.
Bill Scanlon, Wake County government innovation partner, sees civic tech as an opportunity for entrepreneurs to work with the government to solve problems, and he is excited about the cross-sector collaboration that has already occurred.
“We are working in the triangle to connect the government idea process to the civic tech and entrepreneurial community,” Scanlon said, “so that people have the chance to see inside of our needs and work things out.”
“Collaboration is really the key to ongoing growth,” said Scanlon.