Virtual CBs – inaugural post

On Friday, the NY Governor signed EO No. 202.1 and it included the following:

Suspension of law allowing the attendance of meetings telephonically or other similar service:

Article 7 of the Public Officers Law, to the extent necessary to permit any public body to meet and take such actions authorized by the law without permitting in public in-person access to meetings and authorizing such meetings to be held remotely by conference call or similar service, provided that the public has the ability to view or listen to such proceeding and that such meetings are recorded and later transcribed;

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First, I want to acknowledge these are scary times. For the past week and a half, the BetaNYC team and our fellows have been moving to work remotely. We are a digital first organization and this move took us by shock. We are right here with you.

While our capacity is being tested, we see a unique opportunity for Community Boards. With the suspension of the public officers law, Boards are able to experiment with 21st century tools that might increase future access to meetings. 

In the meantime, we have work that has to move forward! Pa’lante!!

Please consider us partners through this. We’ve spent the past few years understanding your pains. We know what it like to learn new skills, and learning any new skill includes the acquisition of a few headaches, bumps, and bruises. We’re dedicated to comforting you when you fall, picking you up, and putting you right back on your digital bicycle. We are not hear to sell you anything. We want you to excel at being a community board in the 21st century using digital era tools.

Let’s be real. Learning to go remote with next to zero municipal support is going to be a unique challenge, but it will be easier than understanding the ins and outs of your first ULURP!

Here is how we will help you. Currently, we are in process of writing three documents:

  • ONE – a product sheet on tools you can use to run community board meetings remotely
  • TWO – best practices on how to run a remote meeting and share files
  • THREE – best practices on how to run a remote office. If you want to get a head start, join our slack and DM @noneck.

First, we are going to address you finding a tool. Over the next 8 days, we will be publish best practices.

What tools should I use to run a virtual meeting?

At this time, we are not recommending a single solution. Some of you might be comfortable with one product over another. In a pinch, it is best to use tools and technology that you are familiar with.

Also, you should use the simplest tool for the job.

Our Civic Innovation Fellows and my civic tech friends, who are in government, scattered across the planet, and facing the same situation, helped compile this spreadsheet. Here is our listing of tools you should be considering < >.

Thanks Vyki Englert, Mohammad Chowdhury, Srijana Tamang, and Civic Union Slack community for compiling this spreadsheet format!

We are recommending you use software that can:

  • let you hold meetings via teleconference (video and/or audio) as long as the public can listen in or view online. 
  • available via multiple platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and modern web browser 
  • the “tool” should enable meetings that have video AND telephone connection options. Board members need flexibility incase of internet interruption.
  • tools should let you designate three sets of participants: admins who run or administer the meetings, participants who can talk / share video / engage, AND another subset who are just viewing.
  • tools should have strict moderation / administrative controls where admins can mute or kick various participants.
  • there should be a chat window where participants, not the public can signal if someone should speak up or repeat.
  • lastly, the system should let you record the video and audio conversation onto your computer or into the cloud.

How do I run a remote meeting?

We’re writing a longer document. In the meantime, here are some quick tips for board members:

  • you will need a high speed internet connection, a quiet space, headphones, and if you are using video, a neutral background
  • participants should use a headset with a microphone. Microphones on laptops or monitors tends to collect too much ambient sound. 
  • have your phone ready as a backup. Some systems allow for video to be on the computer and audio to be via the telephone. USE THIS OPTION IF YOU CAN. 
  • And this is AN ALWAYS, when joining the meeting, you should be on mute, and only unmute yourself when you are talking. 
  • Stay focused. You have the internet at your fingertips. STAY PRESENT; FACEBOOK LATER.

IF you want to join me in a test of Zoom, I’ll be hosting a zoom test meeting and will walk through many of its features. To join, please spend 10 – 15 mins before the meeting setting up and testing your zoom connection.

This call is reserved for District Managers, Chairs, and Staff. To join, add your name to this form.

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