Why So Many People Attend City Meetings in Lexington

A nonprofit is keeping the public informed — and getting them engaged in local government.

(Photo courtesy CivicLex)

Lexington, Kentucky is home to an organization that is shaking up what civic engagement looks like. CivicLex, launched in 2017, aims to increase participation in local government.

In this episode of the Next City podcast, reporter Cinnamon Janzer gives an overview of how CivicLex does its work: On its website, the organization provides easy access to information about the happenings of local government. It covers city hall in a similar way that a local news outlet would. And it increases the opportunities and methods residents have to participate in local government — for example, it’s partnering with high schools to get young people engaged early.

We also hear from Richard Young, founder and executive director of CivicLex. Young shares about the moments that led him to found CivicLex, the organization’s initial challenges and how it changed its strategy to inform people and keep them involved in local decisions big and small.

Over the last six years, the organization has pushed its local government officials to rethink how to connect with the public.

“City government is not a monolith. There are 3,600 people who work for our local government and there are a lot of people that really care about public engagement and want to get people involved,” Young says. “But the way the systems have been historically designed bleeds over into our modern times. Even for folks in our local government who want to make these processes better, they’re held back by the way things have always been.”

Young adds that CivicLex’s role as an organization outside of the government is to “poke and prod” at those systems. He’s found that some officials are excited about that.
To learn more about how CivicLex is increasing civic engagement in its city and how you can replicate the model in your city, listen to this episode below or subscribe to the Next City podcast on Apple, Spotify or Goodpods.

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