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A WordPress for Every Civic League (Where I Live)

Let's give civic & community leagues the tools they need to be effective online. Let's stop trying to lure people to niche technologies & closed networks. We want to give civic & community leagues a shiny new WordPress & show them how to use it.
Equip civic and community leagues for the digital age.

  1. Bootstrap community groups, civic leagues, PTAs and recreation leagues with web sites built from an off-the-shelf content management system
  2. Teach league members technical and operational proficiency
  3. Measure and report on tech “stickiness” as well as changes in membership and engagement after one year.

Community and civic leagues are dying, literally and figuratively. I’m the president of my neighborhood’s community league, which exists to preserve open space, and most of our members are seniors, long retired. There are certainly vibrant civic leagues in my city with different demographics but nearly all leagues suffer from the same failure to use modern technology that everyone otherwise takes for granted. Parent-Teacher Associations and athletic/recreation leagues are the same.

They all have websites but they are ad-hoc experiences at best. As a result, civic leagues operate according to a bygone era. The gap in technology is reflective of an overall decline in resiliency from an aging population. Leagues are not equipped to operate in a digital world and if they’re not equipped to operate in a digital world they won’t survive. We think the institutions are worth saving and deserve help. Many recognize the dilemma, too. Some companies and not-for-profit organizations see the problem and try to fix it with a new social network and branded experience designed specifically to address the problem in one fell swoop. These approaches come and go without progress because they are chasing a business model when all that is needed is to teach leagues to exploit what is readily available to them. Civic leagues, community associations, PTAs and the like need a modern approach to online content and communications

I’ve experienced first hand how better online content and communications leads to better organizations and improved interactions between citizens and government. But many, many organizations still don’t have capabilities or skills for seizing this opportunity. By connecting community and civic leagues to the web more effectively we will improve interaction between citizens and government. People recognize the value of community and neighborhood. People value knowing what’s going on around them. Residents want to know what their local government and businesses are doing that has impact on their property, streets, parks and the like. Rather than creating technology and attempting to bring people to it, let’s bring technology to people who need it and show them how to use it. Let’s stop trying to create new technologies, companies and products to solve this problem. Let’s roll out a web pattern and show people how to implement it. Connecting civic leagues to the web through a modern CMS has surprising, positive effects on the interactions between citizens and government. After implementing a WordPress for my community league:
  • Web site traffic increased
  • Subscriptions increased
  • Members’ communications increased
  • Attendance at meetings increased
  • Volunteer participation increased
  • Interactions with local government increased
While there are other factors that contributed to these improvements I can attest that improving our content and communications through a modern CMS has had direct impact on each of these elements. In addition to the above metrics, we will measure:
  • Number of unique authors
  • Number of posts
  • Number of posts per member

Our solution is to:

  1. Give civic and community leagues a templated WordPress populated with their existing content
  2. Teach league members how to use their WordPress.

A WordPress web site will provide every conceivable capability that a modern civic league might need. It is a simple remedy and it has the added benefit of recruiting and training new civic leaders. The WordPress creates an opportunity for civic engagement that appeals to younger people. A WordPress will still require a technical person on the Board of Directors to maintain the web site, just as the requirement exists today for leagues that have web sites. A modern capability will attract younger, more technical people to fill that responsibility. These new members will rise to leadership position in their organizations. The online and network effects will build stronger organizations.

Our approach is simple, even mundane: we’re going to systematically convert websites from ad-hoc web code to instances of a WordPress theme with a common information architecture. We’re going to donate the new WordPress sites and provide instruction in their operations. Then we’re going to say “thanks and goodbye” for a while. We’ll check back after a few months and periodically for a year to see how things are going and to tighten any loose bolts. We’ll measure our results using website analytics, surveys and by noting which sites maintain regular updates and traffic throughout the year. We’ll start locally and regionally to test our approach.

Success: a majority of websites are sustained with little to no intervention from us after the WordPress sites are delivered and the test period expires.

What is your project? [1 sentence max]

We're going to equip civic and community leagues for the digital age.

Where are you located?

Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA

How did you hear about the contest?

  1. OpenGov group or listserve
Kevin's profile photo
entry submitted by: Kevin Curry
March 16, 2013, 11:44PM
357 views 12 comments 14 applause Applaud


Join the conversation and post a comment.

March 27, 2013, 10:39AM

I am currently in front of our City Council discussing revisions to our Community Organizations ordinance Last night the Council asked me to prepare a resource guide to be attached to our applications. As apart of this I would love to be able to make WordPress templates available to them. Keep me in the loop and perhaps we can roll this out through our brigade OpenSLC.

We are also looking for some WordPress template via our yourSLC project. But ours are for us to use in house so that we can better present and engage the public on major city projects.

Thanks for you CFA support too!

Nole Walkingshaw
Kevin Curry's reply to Nole Walkingshaw's comment
March 29, 2013, 10:20AM
Nole, thank you for sharing that bit of information. Much like CityCamp, I think syndicating the theme is a clear next step. Look and feel are important and moreover a common information architecture. We don't have it right yet at but something like menu bar there.
March 25, 2013, 06:26PM
Cool project. The simple process of setting up a new website is a also a stealthy way to introduce other more complex ideas, like publishing data feeds or calendar info - or even standards. Once your website is updated, other tasks will become much easier to contemplate.

One nuts and bolts question -- are you going to host, or set up the leagues with their own hosting? Is this actually a one-click service?

It would be great to involve local dev firms here, so there's a long-term path to sustainability that has one foot in the for-profit world - even if it's just in the form of pro bono support from local firms.
Kevin Curry's reply to Nole Walkingshaw's comment
March 26, 2013, 12:23AM
Thanks for the kind words, Frank.

I think it's a gateway, too. It's a gateway to other technologies, yes. Events alone are a thoroughly promising set (see also:

Here's what I'm thinking:

League members who are predominantly not technical can easily relate to the introduction of this new-to-them technology into their operations. It's the newsletter online sent to your email. As you suggest, the Word Press will make leagues more open to other capabilities, like syndicating and linking to event calendars of other community and municipal web sites, conducting routine league votes online and collecting dues through PayPal. A modern CMS like a WordPress will also attract new, younger members who are already comfortable with technology but who don't engage in civic or community leagues and may even view them as luddite organizations from a previous era. These new, younger and more tech saavy members, including the new web masters and contributors to the Word Press will take on positions of responsibility they never intended. This will revitalizing the leagues.

To answer your questions:

I would not host. That's a deliberate decision. I'm targeting leagues that already have a web presence. If I come across a league that isn't online at all then I may include them or I may consider a second phase. In either case, I would teach them about typical internet service providers and the costs then help them get started at that level as part of getting them onto the Word Press. The for-profit firms in this picture are the ISPs and possibly Word Press. I think the path to sustainability is already there because these leagues are already paying the costs of hosting their (poorly implemented) web sites. WordPress' "5 minute install" is as close to one-click service as I would need. I also deliberately intend not to court local dev firms either for fee or pro bono. There's just no business in web sites for community leagues and we shouldn't posture otherwise anytime soon. Moreover, if local devs want to get involved then I think they should join a local civic or community league and serve as web master on the board of directors.
March 17, 2013, 10:48AM
Nice work!
Kevin Curry's reply to Nole Walkingshaw's comment
March 17, 2013, 10:57AM
Thanks, Luke!
Mehwish Mushtaq's reply to Nole Walkingshaw's comment
March 18, 2013, 06:58PM
Good project. One thing though, teaching how to use wordpress is easy, but my expereince with using various wordpress themes is that some customization is almost always required, and it's then when it can become difficult for non-technical users. Do you have any suggestions to tackle that?
Kevin Curry's reply to Nole Walkingshaw's comment
March 18, 2013, 07:21PM
Thanks for the kind words and the question about customization. My intent with this project is to enlist a veteran theme designer and take an approach like we did with CityCamp ( to make a pattern that works for most. In my experience we haven't had a driving need for customization of CityCamp or my a community league site. is an off-the-shelf theme. When thinking about the priority for customization we have to consider the status quo. Many sites operate with home-grown HTML and there is usually only one person, a "web master", capable of maintaining the site and posting new content. I'd much rather have a system where multiple non-technical people can make meaningful contributions on a regular basis without technical assistance. Comparatively speaking, customization is a problem I'd like to have. But it's at best a secondary problem compared to the anti-pattern that exists. If customization becomes a concern then we'll start thinking about how we can update the training for all of those league web masters who are currently hand-writing HTML. Not to pick on anyone, especially close to home, but...Exhibit A:
Mehwish Mushtaq's reply to Nole Walkingshaw's comment
March 18, 2013, 03:30PM
Thankyou. I hope red tape doesn't become a hindrance and your ambition is realized. It would be very interesting to see the results.
March 17, 2013, 07:40PM
This would be great Kevin. These kind of community and civic hub websites are important and likely especially lacking in areas with the greatest need.

It would be great too if you could include feeds from various localized sources that relate to the organization or their local community and that promote civic engagement. One could be (shameless plug) our local government document repository outlined here which could serve an embedded page in your hub-sites.

I've done a ton of sites pro-bono for various groups and I think the biggest need is plugging the eventual admins into a good online training system. Perhaps this could be done by your team and webcasts saved and turned into instructional videos.

I think it would be important too to ensure these are mobile friendly by the templates you select since we're seeing more and more of the older generations plugging into the net via mobile.
Hillary Hartley's reply to Nole Walkingshaw's comment
March 18, 2013, 01:53AM
A responsive design template is a must for any forward-thinking government website project. Mobile compatibility is one way to future-proof gov sites.
Kevin Curry's reply to Nole Walkingshaw's comment
March 18, 2013, 05:27PM
Thanks for the reminder about responsive & mobile!


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