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Polco News & Knowledge

How Resident Feedback Can (Still) Guide Your COVID-19 Response

-By Julia Steege-Reimann-

It’s hard to imagine that we would be in this place almost a year after the first COVID-19 lockdowns began. 

All these months later, COVID-19 is surging across the country. And local government leaders are still grappling with how to move their communities forward in such unprecedented times. 

How will residents respond to city-wide vaccination directives? How do you best understand your residents’ needs while we can’t gather together physically? How do you make data-informed decisions when the landscape is constantly shifting? How do you even find the time to engage residents thoughtfully after so many exhausting months?

“While many local leaders have dealt with crises, most in America have not dealt with a pandemic,” said Michelle Kobayashi, Senior Vice President of Innovation for Polco.  “With the resurgence of COVID-19 cases throughout the nation, governments, once again, are grappling with decisions related to our COVID-19 response. Understanding how residents are experiencing the pandemic in terms of their physical, emotional and economic health are key to these decisions.” 

A Survey Toolkit to Guide COVID-19 Response

Polco has recently created an online toolkit of COVID-19 surveys. The toolkit provides sets of questions that can help local government decision makers respond to the unique issues of their community and keep tabs on resident priorities.

"Online engagement is the best method right now to make sure the disconnect between government and constituents does not widen in a time when it is crucial we work together," Kobayashi added. 

These ready-to-use surveys are available for free to any jurisdiction that has a Polco subscription. You can access them in the Polco Library, a repository of timely and relevant surveys created by our survey scientists. 

The COVID-19 survey topics cover many aspects of recovery and response. These topics include everything from vaccines to household spending to telecommunications to education to housing security to mental health status and much more. Because communities are in different situations with the pandemic, the survey topics provide for a variety of phases and circumstances.

Community economy is one topic that many cities are seeking public input about, including Boulder, Colorado. The City used the Residential Readiness Survey, in the COVID-19 Toolkit, to help plan for a safe reopening of their businesses.

“The survey results were critical to business owners as well as other community partner organizations,” said Terri Takata-Smith, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Downtown Boulder Partnership. “Findings from the survey helped to guide not only business operational decisions but also provided guidance in marketing plans in the weeks and months ahead.”

Best Ways To Use The Toolkit

Local governments can consider how best to tailor the COVID-19 Toolkit surveys to their needs.

Organizations can decide whether they want to send surveys weekly, monthly, or on some other interval. They can prioritize the surveys based on the most pressing current issues.

Some of the surveys in the toolkit also can be used as pulse surveys. In other words, local governments can send out the same question sets at regular intervals to monitor community needs and changes over time.

Local governments can track how residents rate physical health, emotional health, and economic health over time. This will help leaders understand what actions to take now and to predict the impacts of those decisions in the future.  

In hindsight, it will be easy to judge which decisions were good and which fell short.The power of using resident feedback to help inform decisions is the best way to crowdsource solutions. This in turn will lead to a faster recovery,” said Kobayashi.

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