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In the engagement space, we are constantly preaching about meeting our readers where they are. The adage is often associated with digital distribution, but we took a more literal approach with our story suggestion boxes. And where are our readers? Drinking coffee.

The idea was to create a direct line to the Courant through these small metal boxes, notecards and pencils.

So, we ordered a few boxes from Amazon (naturally), and placed a few of them at popular gathering places throughout the Hartford community. One of those places being the popular coffee shop Story and Soil.

We've gotten a number of great story suggestions so far, ranging from where to see underground rock shows in the area to where Connecticut's politicians stand on President Trump. Every now and then, we even get a few poems.

We've recently transitioned the boxes to include the prompt: "Which issues do you care most about in the upcoming presidential election?" to help guide our newsroom's election coverage.

This past summer the Courant partnered with a group of local DJs on behalf of the Hartford Courant to organize a community taco night and co-create a digital questionnaire for the city’s mayoral candidates.

More than 50 community members gathered over dinner and music in downtown Hartford to discuss and vote on the questions that the Courant would then submit to each candidate’s campaign.

Questions included, “What’s your vision for affordable retail downtown?” and “What will you do to increase accountability and transparency in Hartford police?” After receiving the responses, we published them on

It was important for us to reach city residents we didn’t already have relationships with, so instead of promoting the event via our branded accounts, we had local influencers share the event details organically on their social platforms. We sold out the event in one week.

More than anything else, the most rewarding part of the project was being able to create a space to have meaningful conversations with our neighbors and work together around the common goal of proposing solutions to the issues facing our neighborhoods, city and state.

When Luke Bronin was elected as the mayor of Hartford, we launched the #DearLuke social video series to give residents a chance to share what the changes they would like to see in the city. The series culminated with a piece from the mayor addressing all of the concerns.

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