SJgovernmentconnextlogoby Lauren Skowronski

For everyone from local journalists to average citizens, the need for community information is critical to a high quality of life.

Sustainable Jersey, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that provides standards, training, and financial incentives to communities that pursue sustainability programs, has learned a lot about what it takes to make a community a great place to live. Through our task forces, we have developed a list of the actions, from buying electricity from renewable sources to hosting a green business recognition program and mapping creative assets to fostering positive human-wildlife interactions, that communities can take on their path to sustainability.

Sustainable Jersey believes that an engaged citizenry working to implement sustainable practices are just as necessary to a thriving community as those actions and a willing governing body.

Through a new suite of actions, Sustainable Jersey will provide our government leaders at the local level a new tool box that will help them strengthen or create the infrastructure to support citizen engagement.

What kind of infrastructure do we mean? One of transparency, so that citizens can find highly requested information without having to dig or wait seven days for requests to be filled. One where local governments use the online realm to gather public input, post digital records and communicate with residents. All of this and more will help create efficiencies within departments and more effectively engage residents.

The new program actions address a wide variety of needs, opportunities and issues. For example, we would all benefit from alternative ways to provide input on or gain details about upcoming planning and zoning decisions or engage in the Master Plan revision process. Superstorm Sandy reminded us that residents need real time updates during emergencies. When municipal budgets are made accessible in easy to use formats, citizens are able to see if there are monies available to fund needed projects before proposing them to the governing body.

They will build on the pioneering and innovative work taking place in New Jersey municipalities and beyond, while raising the bar on the why, what and how to build and support robust community and civic engagement in communities. The action toolkits will provide detailed guidance and resources to help municipal officials, green team members and other representatives to implement these new best practice recommendations.

New Public Information & Engagement Actions Released on October 2nd

This is why we are happy to announce that the new suite of Public Information & Engagement actions will be at our inaugural Government Connext Forum on October 2, 2015 at the Mercer Center in West Windsor.

Three tracks will offer sessions led by New Jersey and national experts focused on digital government, open data and public information and emergency communications planning. Companies will share their innovative solutions to help towns save money, become more efficient and engage citizens.

For more info and to register for the Government Connext Forum, visit

This article was originally posted on the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation blog on August 19, 2015.  Several updates were made to the original content.