CivNet – What It Is and How to Use It

At the action forums, we promised to help everyone who has participated so far to continue participating. For this reason, we have written an explanation of how to use CivNet, which we have chosen as an ideal platform to continue our in-person conversations online.

One of our action forum participants, Charlie Wisoff, is the creator of this unique and useful web platform. It was designed with the explicit purpose of getting people to take action on issues that they care about. Over 1000 passionate people in the Albuquerque area are already using it to make change happen in our community. Therefore, it is a natural place to continue conversations that were started at the action forums.

What is CivNet?

If you learn the best through video, below is a tutorial video on how to use CivNet + more info about what CivNet is:

How to Join CivNet

If you already have a CivNet account, scroll to the bottom of this article to see existing CivNet “Action Plans” which relate to topics discussed at our action forums.

Otherwise, here is a step by step breakdown of how to make an account on CivNet and plug into what is already happening on there.  

Below is the home page, which can be found at

Click on this image to sign up for CivNet!
Click on this image to sign up for CivNet!

If you don’t have an account yet, you can make one with a single click by tying in with your existing Facebook or LinkedIn account. If you don’t like that option, making an account only requires a username, email address and password. Sign up by clicking the link highlighted by the red arrow at the top of this image. Once you’ve signed in, you will arrive on this page:

home page civnet

Once here, start by clicking “Find Action Plans”, highlighted by the red arrow in the above image. After clicking there, you will find this page with a list of various “Action Plans”:

issues page civnetIn order to find the various topics and “Action Plans” which align with your interests, click on one of the drop down menus, highlighted in the above image with the red arrow.

For example, if you clicked the “Issues” drop down menu, then clicked “Transportation”, this would show you all the transportation related “Action Plans” on CivNet. This happens to include the group we have started, “Greater Central Ave”, highlighted with a red arrow in the image below:

issues transportation

If you want to join the group, just click “Join”. Once you join, click on the title of the group to check it out.

What I Can Do in an Action Plan + How to Make a Call to Action

Part of the reason we picked CivNet as a platform was because the meat of the site is the “Call to Action” buttons we’ve highlighted below. CivNet gives every user the ability to both make a “Call to Action” and call others into action on issues they care about.

In addition to creating “Calls to Action”, “Action Plans” also allow you to make general comments, post resources such as Word documents or images and most importantly connect with other people who are interested in the same topic.

In the image below, we have highlighted where on the “Action Plan” the “Call to Action” features can be found:

civnet greater central

We haven’t taken any actions yet but we invite people to do so!

What does it look like when people make “Calls to Action”?

Let’s visit a more active “Action Plan”, the “Improve Public Participation” action plan. Below, you can see some of the actions they have called for people to take:

public participation action plans civnet

With “Calls to Action”, you can decide how many people you would like to participate and reach out to specific individuals for participation. You can also set an end date for the Calls. For example, perhaps there is a meeting that you want people to attend on a specific day. When you create the Calls, there are many different ways to customize them to suit whatever needs you may have.

That’s the basic breakdown of CivNet! If you want more info about how to use to the site, click the CivNet logo in the top left corner and go back to the home page. There, you will find blue boxes which contain more help to get you started using CivNet:

home page additional help

If you have any additional questions about CivNet, the folks running it are always happy to assist. Email them at

Existing CivNet Action Plans Which Relate to Topics Discussed at Our Action Forums

Another reason we picked CivNet was because of the fact that many of the issues discussed at our action forums already have related “Action Plans” on CivNet.

Below are existing CivNet action plans which relate in some way to the conversations which took place at our action forums. Each of the listed “Action Plans” are links which will take you directly to “Action Plan” itself. Other “Action Plans” on CivNet can be found by using the “Search” function at the top of any CivNet page. Keep in mind that not all of these groups are active and these do not come close to representing all of the ideas discussed at our action forums. This is simply a way to help get you started on the site:

If you DO like CivNet, please invite your friends to action plans by clicking the Facebook, Twitter and “Invite Others to Join” buttons, which can be found below the name of each “Action Plan”. They look like this:

Click here to share the Greater Center Ave CivNet page with your friends on Facebook
Click on this image to share the Greater Center Ave CivNet page with your friends on Facebook

Our Land, Our Health: The Connection Between Land Use & Health

We continue to see events emerging in alignment with the conversations that were had at first three action forums.

Two of our action forum conveners, James Aranda and Matt Cross-Guillén of NM Health Matters, are leading a series of workshops which will explain the connection between land use and public health and give people the tools they need to better understand how to influence land use in their neighborhoods.

The first round of workshops will be next week on August 9th and 16th, 6-8 PM in the South Valley and the second series of workshops will be held on August 15th and September 1st, 6-8 PM at La Mesa Presbyterian Church.  For more specific details, see the flyer below:  

Click the flyer to enlarge it
Click on the flyer to enlarge it

James notes that “Our Land, Our Health is a multimedia training and online toolkit that helps people better understand the connection between land use policy and health. The goal of Our Land, Our Health is to give community members the tools, information and resources to engage in the decision making process so they can advocate for policies that will result in healthier communities.”

At all three of our action forums, James led conversations about meaningful community engagement. In the upcoming “Our Land, Our Health” workshops, people will be a taught about topics including:

  • History of what land use is and how it came to be
  • How land use and zoning is connected to and impacts health
  • What YOU can do to get involved and impact land use in your community.

You can also keep up with information about the “Our Land, Our Health” initiative on their CivNet page LINKED HERE.

On a very related note, the City of Albuquerque is currently revising the zoning code which dictates land use across the city! It is a once in a generation opportunity for you to weigh in on how you would like the city to be built and designed. There will be a hearing on this plan, which will include opportunities for public comment, on August 25th, 1 – 8 PM, Council Chambers, 1 Civic Plaza NW, Albuquerque, NM 87102. For more details on upcoming events related to this process and for more information, CLICK HERE.

Interested in attending the “Our Land, Our Health” gatherings? For more information and to RSVP, please email Matt at  

Looking Back and Moving Forward – A Reflection on the First Three Action Forums

  • 130+ participants
  • 40 different yet related discussion topics
  • 25+ organizations inviting people into the process
  • Positive, constructive collaboration, all around taking Central Avenue and its surrounding neighborhoods from “Good to Great” over the next 10+ years…

These were the results of the first three action forums convened.

Let’s take a deeper look at what happened over the course of these meetings.

Our third action forum on Saturday, July 9th at the Los Volcanes Senior Center
Our third action forum on Saturday, July 9th at the Los Volcanes Senior Center

What is the Greater Central Avenue initiative?

It all started with a question: if the Central corridor receives over two billion dollars in investment over the course of the next 10 years, what do we want that to look like?

There is also a bigger picture question: what would be the best way to take the Central corridor from good (its current form) to great?

This two billion dollar question came from a study conducted by the Center for Neighborhood Technology for the City of Albuquerque, linked here, that accounted for two assumptions:

  1. The ART project – a multi million dollar mass transit and pedestrian safety and accessibility project:
  2. ABC to Z – a once in a generation revision of the zoning code. The zoning code dictates what can be built where and this revision will shape the city’s built environment for a generation or more:
Click on this image to learn more about the ABC to Z process
Click on this image to learn more about the ABC to Z process

This is all based on the fact that other cities who have done both of these things at the same time, as articulated in the CNT report, have seen these dramatic financial impacts.

However, cities that have generated these development and community benefits organized themselves to do so. Left on its own, a zoning code and transit improvement won’t get the desired benefits to all–that only comes with 1000’s of individual actions that take advantage of and build on these two major initiatives.

In our invitation, we asked a question about a future few in Albuquerque have started to consider: what can the next ten years look like if we wanted to maximize the benefits our studies show could be achieved? Where is the energy now, what do people most care about and what are they willing to do about it?

What is Open Space Technology? Why Did We Use This Method for Our Action Forums?

Before we get into the answers which emerged from the question we asked, a brief word about Open Space technology and why we used it as a meeting methodology.

Based on community feedback we heard about previous public engagement processes, we chose a meeting method that was different. The open space method, which you can find more info on here, is participant led, evolving and open. The responsibility for outcomes rested with each of the participants.

We asked people what they cared about in relation to this theme and what they wanted to do about it. This technique isn’t for everyone. The theme resonated with people who wanted to find others who were interested in similar things and start taking actions–small, large and everything in between. Every participant so far has already taken a large action: showing up to one or more meetings and engaging in the process.  

Answers in the Form of 40 Different Topics

At the beginning of each of our sessions, we asked the above question and at each session, people quickly rose from their seats, wrote down their topic. Each topic was then posted in different parts of the room and people interested in discussing each topic would gather around those people and those ideas.

Topics were far ranging. Some of the more popular examples, which arose at two or more session, included:

  • The pedestrian environment on Central – how to make it safer and more pleasant
  • Public participation and community engagement – how to make it better
  • Housing – building affordable housing, mixed use development with housing and retail, etc.

A full list of topics can be found here:

At each of the sessions, people gathered and discussed the various topics enthusiastically in groups both large and small. Conversations started early and went late. When conversations would end early, some people from those conversations joined other groups still talking. Ideas and topics cross fertilized in an organic and productive manner. It was inspiring and fruitful.

A visual example of the organic conversational process observed at the action forums
A visual example of the organic conversational process observed at the action forums

Every session ended with every participant gathering together in the circle that we started with. We would go around the circle and everyone would give a short reflection on their experience that day before leaving.

What Happens Next?

Many of these conversations never ended. As people walked out, they continued to discuss the various topics and already, we’re seeing actions emerge from the open space sessions. small conversations have been convened by participants on topics from enhancing public engagement, redeveloping vacant land both large and small, and targeted bike improvements… but these are just the actions we’ve heard about.

Some of the conversations have migrated to CivNet, a locally designed web platform for folks who want to take action on topics they are passionate about. Join the Greater Central Ave CivNet page here:

These stories of what people are doing as a result of these conversations will be shared here in this space on the Greater Central Ave website. Please share this story and this process with anyone who you think should be involved. After all, it is up to all of us in this community to answer that two billion dollar question: what can YOU do to take the Central corridor from good to great?

John Anderson – Small Scale Spaces for Living and Entrepreneurial Work

At the end of our last open space meeting on Saturday, July 9th, we promised to keep everyone informed of future events and gathering which grew out of the open space process.

On this note, we have some exciting news: one of our coveiners, Susan Deichsel, is organizing an event that grew out of conversations which happened at the Open Space sessions. On Wednesday, July 27, John Anderson will be speaking at Rio Bravo Brewing Company, located at 1912 2nd St NW, at 6 PM. All of the details can be found on the flyer below:

Click on the flyer above to open it in a new tab
Click on the flyer above to open it in a new tab

How does this event relate to the conversations we had at the first three Open Space meetings?

Looking at the Open Space meeting notes, which can be found here, there were six discussion topics which directly relate to the types of ideas that Mr. Anderson shares:

  • 1. Mixed Use Development with Retail Under Residential
  • 2. Identifying & Developing TOD Nodes Along Central Ave
  • 3. Density
  • 25. Create and Preserve Affordable and Low Income Housing
  • 34. Smart Economic Development and Growth

Susan notes that “John explains in his talks that becoming a developer doesn’t always require a huge amount of capital. It’s a much lower barrier of entry than people think.” She goes on to say that “you don’t need the financial knowledge you think you need to develop on a small scale. Working class individuals can use John’s techniques to build, finance and rent out buildings in their own neighborhoods.”

Why Should I Care?

One of the themes frequently heard at the open space sessions was that people want to preserve the history, culture and identity of their neighborhoods while encouraging responsible and appropriate development. One way to accomplish this is to help people learn how to develop themselves, in their own neighborhoods. When an outside developer comes in, it is challenging to get everyone on the same page regarding what the ideal type of development looks like.

If developers are actually residents of the neighborhoods where they are proposing development, the preservation of the given neighborhood identity would be more likely and easier to accomplish. Even if residents do not end up becoming developers, a knowledge of the development process can help neighborhoods more effectively negotiate with developers and attract development in their neighborhood that works for both the neighborhood and the developer.

This event is filling up and quickly and thought it is free, it is RSVP only! If you are interested in attending, please email Susan Deichsel at

If you can not make this session, learn more about John Anderson and other people involved in incremental development by clicking here.

Please comment below with questions and other thoughts!  

The Beginning of Something Great

Our first three open space forums are over and we are excited to see what is next.

Over then next few weeks, we will be reflecting on the process so far, guiding particpants towards other opportunities for collaboration, tell stories about what have emerged from this process so far and more! In the meantime, here is the original invitation, in both Spanish and English, as a reminder of where we started.

original invites both languages

Follow this blog for more articles and stories, coming soon!