As governments across the country grapple with ways to effectively engage a decreasing number of locally involved citizens, the availability of modern tools seem to always lag behind those which citizens desire. The rise in social media use to almost 70% of the adult population(1) has created expectations and habits among residents that may not lead to productive discourse or feedback. Popular social networks make it difficult to ensure that outbound information is accurate and objective. These platforms are also not designed for civic communication - too frequently, the most used channels devolve into negative discourse. All of this means the information about local sentiment being relayed to municipal decision-makers on important local issues is of questionable utility.
We just finished rolliong out our most exciting update in a while - long-form surveys. We can't wait to see all the exciting data that municipalities can uncover by asking multiple questions focused on a single topic!
How to get from concept to solution by asking the right questions
Last week, the Institute of Local Government out of California hosted a webinar titled “Engaging Your Community Through Surveys and Polls.” They were kind enough to record the talk, and if you’d like to see their teachings on the issue, you can find the video of the webinar here.
The hosting of this particular webinar, and the interest they received and attendance for the event, made us realize that perhaps there’s a need for a singular online resource on question types or ways to lead constituents through topic areas to help them, and your locality, come up with solutions to otherwise complex issues. If you remember, we discussed this briefly here on this blog a couple weeks ago, but now it’s time for the full dive.
In the wake of recent national elections, it seems the entirety of the narrative on citizen-government engagement has been focused on how polarized our country is, and how out of touch governments are with their citizens. While those stories make great headlines, at Polco we’ve actually found a lot of the opposite - at the local level, our government leaders seem to have their finger squarely on the pulse of their citizens.
In our last post, we discussed the steps localities need to take to effectively engage their citizens and close the feedback loop. Following this process is an important first step to online citizen engagement and once you start down that process, you'll find yourself with many more valuable opportunities to engage with your constituents.
Sometimes this can create uncertainty, as it may not be clear exactly how to take advantage of the new opportunities. This uncertainty takes many forms, from “what should I ask” to “how should I ask” and everything in between. We’re going to use this space to address these two most common concerns, and end with a challenge to see where others have had success in online question asking!
As many local governments look for ways to engage an increasingly online-only portion of their populations, the problems ahead seem daunting with few, or sometimes no, easy solutions.
The truth is, online civic engagement is hard. But, if you follow a pretty easy recipe - and one you’re already using for other civic engagement activities - you can achieve a much higher participation rate than you currently see, all while getting actionable feedback from your citizens.
Receiving actionable feedback in the online-arena comes from following four simple, yet regularly overlooked steps that you are probably already doing. Like town hall meetings, direct mail surveys, or publications you are sending out like a newsletter or regular email, online engagement starts and ends with YOU!
YOU must: describe what you want, time your issue, act as your own champion, and reward your citizens.