Michigan Municipal League May/June 2023 Review Magazine

Kathy Antaya (Sustainable BC committee member) and Jessica VanderKolk (City communications manager) in Battle Creek's Urbandale neighborhood.

“ Nextdoor is unique in that the city cannot participate in neighborhood conversations, but the city can host conversations, and I think that builds trust around us listening and engaging, but not interfering. ” –Battle Creek City Manager Rebecca Fleury

Our police department worked to set up Nextdoor with our local nonprofit organization that provides programs to create and promote stable homes and neighborhoods. While I remained hesitant, later in 2015 I met one of Nextdoor’s top neighbors—Joseph Porcelli, in part, the platform’s leader in building relationships with agencies across the country. Our discussion brought to light the ways communities can use Nextdoor as part of a balanced communications strategy. That clicked for me, still early in my tenure with the city and eager to keep building relationships between the city and our community. I mentioned earlier that we started with recycling. It was a doozy of a service change, moving to every-other-week recycling from weekly, and to 96-gallon carts from small, open boxes. We know that direct mailings—especially in Battle Creek, where many people still appreciate holding information in their hands—are an important way to inform neighbors about these types of changes.

We did mail postcards, but we also used Nextdoor, because recycling is one of those curbside services. We shared the information in multiple posts, answered dozens of questions in the comments, and used the Event feature to invite neighbors to open houses where they could learn more, and see and touch the new carts. At the time, we felt disheartened by a post with 25 comments trending negatively. But we experienced real engagement, and we got through the changes together. We built on that, and continue working through changes as a community, be it the COVID-19 pandemic, an entire change of curbside waste haulers, routine infrastructure maintenance, citywide boil water advisories, or snow emergencies.

MAY / JUNE 2023



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