To increase municipal transparency, São Paulo, Brazil, has launched Agents of Open Government, an initiative that leverages the skills and experience of those outside the government to make current civil services employees more effective. The program will use peer-to-peer learning, through citizen-led courses on open and collaborative technology, transparency and open data, networked communication, and mapping and collaborative management. To encourage public employees' participation, city workers that attend trainings can gain credits towards pay raises. Officials and organizers will observe if exposure to these topics trickles down to day-to-day governing.
In a mutually enriching partnership between a museum and a library, the Bass Museum of Art in Miami is placing its exhibits and programs in the Miami Beach Regional Library. At first just a temporary agreement to hold some art while the museum was being renovated, the partnership has led to a wider audience being exposed to contemporary art as well as artists benefiting from a broader exposure than just museum-goers. The museum is also funding programs like family art days and mask-making along with other educational programming that supports the mission of the library.
In the Netherlands, the city of Rotterdam is combining urban design, public art, and green space through a March installation of a “floating forest” of trees in one of its harbors. Colorful bobbing planters, resembling flat buoys, will hold the growing trees. Other coastal cities looking to add green space, but with limited land available or concerns about rising sea levels, might take notice.
In Evanston, Illinois, anyone wanting to know immediately how the restaurant they are dining at has fared during inspection can text the name of the restaurant to the city’s 311 service center and get an automated message back with the score within seconds. Officials note that the service, which launched quietly in 2015, provides another platform for residents to gain access to critical information. Officials hope that the ability for diners to learn quickly about the health evaluation of restaurants will spur health scores across all city restaurants to rise.
The city of Hartford, Connecticut, has greatly expanded its integration of the arts into its curriculum for the urban youth it serves. Through a partnership with Hartford Performs, the city has deployed dozens of visiting artists to lead art lessons, and has found ways to use dance, theater, visual arts, and music to teach academic subjects, to provide training for teachers to learn how to integrate arts into their academic lessons, and to fund student visits to regional museums, concert halls, and theaters. A recent study concluded that students participating in the programs did better in reading and writing than their peers who were not exposed to the programming.
Washington, DC, wants to further the public health goals of its residents with the elimination of fees at city-run fitness centers. The health centers, run by the Department of Parks and Recreation, houses standard gym equipment and currently costs $125 for yearly access and $5 for daily access. Officials hope that the move will encourage more of its residents to get fit and stay healthy.