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CivNet launches platform for community organizing

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Charlie Wisoff, who developed the CivNet platform.(COURTESY OF CIVNET)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — CivNet, a new online platform for community organizing, will go live in Albuquerque on Monday for the first time.

The social networking site will be beta testing its new platform with nearly 400 participants signed up from Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

The site, developed by aspiring entrepreneur and civic engagement specialist Charlie Wisoff, is designed to help people increase their impact on issues they care about. It helps inform people about what’s happening in their communities, connects them with others who care about similar issues, offers opportunities to get involved and helps them organize cooperatively to take effective action, Wisoff said.

A newcomer to Albuquerque from the East Coast, Wisoff has been involved in civic engagement work for about five years, most recently as a research assistant at the Kettering Foundation in Washington, D.C., which studies how to make democracy work better through education and grassroots involvement.

“I got the idea for CivNet while working at Kettering,” Wisoff told the Journal. “I saw a need not being met because of a lack of online space for people to engage civically and politically to make impacts.”

Wisoff began building the CivNet platform early this year before raising about $30,000 from friends and family to move the initiative forward. He hired local software developer Brad Weikel, with assistance from Chicago consultant firm 20spokes, to build the platform out this fall. It’s now scheduled to launch at noon Monday for beta testing by participants who signed up in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

A kickoff party will be held from 6-9 pm today at the Epicenter Downtown, where community organizations participating in the beta test period will discuss their work and the potential of CivNet to assist in civic engagement efforts.

The platform will offer online features to help people connect with others on a range of issues, such as education, jobs and economic development, mental and behavioral health, police and law enforcement, land use and transportation. It will provide tools to create action plans online for people to learn what’s happening and how to get involved, and for organizers to post activities and tasks while tracking and coordinating involvement.

“It will facilitate project-oriented action plans to help different groups collaborate with each other,” Wisoff said. “Groups can link their action plans to eliminate duplication.”

The company will eventually generate revenue with targeted advertising, customer relations management services and data analysis.

Albuquerque attorney Chad Gruber, a CivNet beta participant who helped create the Rail Yards Market Downtown, said CivNet could help better harness the power of the Internet for civic engagement.

“In the current online landscape, the Internet and social media doesn’t really facilitate people coming together,” Gruber said. “CivNet could help aggregate folks who share common passions and interests and help them work together to actually get things done.”

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