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October 24, 2017

U-M, Ferndale partner on 'citizen interaction design'

April 19, 2016

U-M, Ferndale partner on 'citizen interaction design'

A second city in Michigan will work with students in the School of Information to identify ways to use technology to foster citizen engagement.

Ferndale will partner with graduate students in the Citizen Interaction Design program. Now entering its fourth year, the program connects municipal governments with student teams who work collaboratively on information projects identified by the communities.

In 2013, Jackson became the first CID partner community. Over the course of the three-year agreement, nearly 100 students worked with city departments and community organizations to complete 25 projects, including the first open data ordinance in Michigan, an anonymous texting service for police tips and an innovative information campaign for downtown construction.

During the partnership, Jackson also implemented a new Web presence and hired its first information officer.

In March, the Ferndale City Council unanimously passed a resolution of support to enter into a similar three-year partnership with the CID program "to explore new ways by which local government can communicate and interact with its citizenry."

"We're excited about our new partnership with Ferndale to develop new information tools that enhance civic life," said Associate Professor Clifford Lampe, founder and director of the program.

"We see Ferndale as a strong partner in this endeavor because of their active interest in finding new ways to engage citizens with information tools and their enthusiasm for the project overall."

Ferndale City Councilman Greg Pawlica, who initiated the conversation between the city and the School of Information, is looking forward to the partnership.

"I'm really excited that Ferndale was selected for CID's next project," he said. "There are so many great things happening here in our city, it's actually a challenge for us to get it all done. Having a partner to help us identify and accomplish our community's goals will be a great and exciting move forward."

Joseph Gacioch, Ferndale assistant city manager, agrees.

"The partnership with UMSI exposes Ferndale to students with tremendous talent and skillsets that we, as a local government, would otherwise not have access to," he said.

"The coolest thing about this program is that the students work on solving problems that are offered up directly by our community members, and in this sense they will be co-creating solutions alongside our community. I think just as important, the students can build a better understanding of 21st century citizenship by understanding how they can use their talents to improve their own community."

The new partnership will start immediately. Over the summer, the CID program staff will introduce the project to the community and seek their participation and input for potential student projects in the fall. CID students will work with Ferndale partners in both fall and winter semesters to develop new information tools and services that support and promote engaged citizenship.

The program kicks off in fall 2016 with a design studio class where students will partner with government departments and community organizations to address opportunities to engage citizens through information tools, according to CID Program Manager Scott TenBrink.

"The focus of those projects will be determined over the next six months. In addition to the design studio course, the partnership will also include opportunities for alternative spring break, day of service and internships," TenBrink said.

As CID expands to new communities, the original partner, the city of Jackson, will continue to play an important role in the program by sharing its experience and projects.

"We expect that some of these projects will be reproduced and expanded in other communities," TenBrink said. "Our eventual goal is to create a network of CID partner communities that can share successes, challenges and best practices for implementing information solutions."