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How Local Governments Can Partner with Residents for a Better COVID-19 Recovery

by NRC
4 min read
June 18, 2020

-Keynote Webinar-

A Data-driven Decisionmaking Guide to COVID-19 Recovery: how local governments and residents can work together to plan for their communities’ future.

Now, more than ever, government staff and leaders need to hear from their community as they create a path toward COVID-19 recovery.

But how can governments and residents work together during recovery and beyond? What are the key messages residents want decision-makers to hear? What are the questions governments should be asking about reopening? What are the priorities of residents when it comes to service adjustment and resource allocation? How will governments measure the impacts of their recovery efforts?

In this recording, keynote Speaker Michelle Kobayashi discusses the best ways to bring in community voices to inform  the development of effective recovery strategies.

Empowering Community Wellbeing and Recovery Through Data-Driven Decision-Making

Residents as Partners

In a time of crisis, residents are looking for local governments to provide leadership, planning, collaboration, communication, policymaking and evaluation. As we move towards recovery, it has never been more important to involve community stakeholders so they are partners in successes and failures. Surveys and other online engagement tools can help local governments to better partner with their residents. 

Engaging Residents

Some ways that local governments engage residents currently include virtual town hall meetings, online focus groups, surveys and polls, and other opportunities for resident comments. 

Different types of engagement can be categorized as one-way engagement, two-way engagement, and deliberative engagement. One-way engagement is when local governments inform residents about what we want them to know and do. A better way to build a partnership is to have two-way communication, where people are able to respond back and give their feedback. Deliberative means engaging residents in systematic and often cyclical ways, including through representative samples and structured surveys. 

Deliberative two-way engagement will help local governments to make more informed data-influenced decisions. The more that communities have data backing up their decisions, the better off they will be in justifying their decisions and the more transparent they will be.

The National Community Survey (The NCS)

The NCS and other resident surveys are great tools for making data-based decisions, especially as communities plan for COVID-19 recovery. 

The NCS measures community livability, quality of government services, and public trust. The NCS, developed by Polco / National Research Center (NRC), is a turn-key survey that allows local communities to benchmark their results, comparing them to hundreds of other communities from across the nation.

Ways to Use The NCS for COVID-19 Recovery

The NCS is commonly used for strategic planning, budgeting, policy making, and performance measurement, among many other uses. Local governments can use The NCS to plan in both generic and specific ways relevant to COVID-19. To guide recovery, local governments can ask specific COVID-related questions or glean insight from the more general community needs revealed by the template survey.

To inform planning, The NCS report highlights areas that residents feel are most important to focus on. 

To inform budgeting, The NCS provides a Performance Improvement Matrix helping communities compare the quality of community characteristics with their importance. This helps local governments to make decisions about resource allocation. Additionally, The NCS has space for custom questions we create to address your specific needs (COVID policy, budget decisions, etc.).

To further inform policy development, communities can use Polco, our free online engagement platform that enables real-time feedback from residents. Local governments can ask direct questions, such as how and when to reopen the economy. They can also ask more indirect questions about resident priorities and concerns.

To inform performance evaluation, local governments could consider looking at how people rate their community on a variety of characteristics in relation to the national benchmark or to their own community over multiple years. Local governments can also use COVID-specific performance measurement questions.

Using Polco Alongside The NCS

Polco can partner well with The NCS. The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the governance landscape continually. This makes it helpful to use Polco alongside The NCS, or other resident surveys, to get immediate feedback when you need it.

Currently, many cities are using Polco to monitor the physical, mental, and fiscal health of their communities to see how these different aspects of health change over time. Cities are also using Polco to understand community needs, test support for new policies, and crowdsource innovative ideas for recovery.

Local Government Trust

One positive impact of COVID-19 is that public trust in local government is at an all-time high, which lends  local governments needed community capital as they face the challenge of leading through this crisis. 

CARES Act Funding

The NCS, along with Community Assessment Survey for Older Adults, The National Business Survey, The National Employee Survey, and  The National Police Services Survey are eligible for CARES Act funding when used for COVID-19 recovery planning. Local government leaders can request more information here.

Get more info about unlocking CAREs Act funding now

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