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Polco News & Knowledge

Three Ways Local Governments Are Reinventing Community Engagement

reinventing community engagement

Learn how three different communities are thinking out of the box to reinvent community engagement.  

Innovative local governments are amping up their approach to community engagement, exploring inventive ways to involve residents beyond traditional means. They prove the potential of resident input extends far above what most people think is possible.

See how three distinct communities used creative approaches to resident engagement. Some of these innovations may surprise you! 

1. Denver, Colorado, Residents Allocate $2 Million of the City Budget

Denver took participatory budgeting seriously, including residents in city fund allocation. They let community members allocate $2 million of the entire budget. 

participatory_budgeting_denver reinventing community engagementTo uncover funding priorities, Denver launched city-wide ballots in multiple neighborhoods. The online ballots were hosted on a tool called Prioritize, created by digital participatory budgeting experts from Polco's Balancing Act. Denver used it to let residents select their top priorities from multiple projects, from tiny homes for people experiencing homelessness to outdoor fitness equipment for older adults.

Voting events occurred everywhere, even in unconventional places like jails and streets. 

Residents cast over 3,100 digital and physical ballots during the month-long voting period. Based on results, nine projects, ranging from new light fixtures and trash cans to wider sidewalks—will receive the combined $2 million and begin design and construction this year. 

"The Prioritize tool from Balancing Act helped us to make the voting phase feel more dynamic, modern, and community-led," said Kiki Turner, Deputy Director of Communications and Public Affairs for the Department of Finance at the City and County of Denver. "The tool allowed us to be adaptable and bring the civic process out into the community."

2. Hanford, California, Residents Choose Retail and Dining Options

The City of Hanford turned to its residents to pick the stores and restaurants that would flavor its downtown. Along the way, they generated impressive engagement—and excitement. 

The City used Balancing Act from Polco's Prioritize tool to allow residents to pick their top five dining and shopping establishments from a list of potential options. Those choices included national brands such as Qdoba, Olive Garden, Macy's, Nordstrom Rack, and more. 

Prioritize is usually used for residents to rank government projects and initiatives. But Hanford's out-of-the-box purpose paid off. The City received over 5,000 submissions from residents. 

chris adams reinventing community engagement"I am always delighted when our local government partners come up with their own creative uses of our tools," said Balancing Act from Polco President Chris Adams. "Hanford's use of the tool for retail is awesome, and it is heartening to see the off-the-charts response they have gotten from residents."

Olive Garden, Chick-fil-A, and BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse won the most votes for restaurants. And Barnes and Noble, Dick's Sporting Goods, and Five Below won the most votes for retail. 

Fort Knox reinventing community engagement

3. Fort Knox Implements Base Improvements In Record Time After Launching Surveys

The famous Fort Knox military base needed a way to collect better feedback from active duty personnel and civilians who live and work on base. So Fort Knox leaders launched a community-wide survey and polls from Polco on base establishments to better understand how to improve services. 

"former commander lance obrien reinventing community engagementGetting that feedback was valuable to us," former Base Commander Lance O'Bryan said. "We were able to actually start executing on making upgrades or making changes that were better based on customer feedback."

For example, the community survey showed respondents wanted more outdoor activities. 

"Within a month of getting the survey results back, they set up recreational kayaking and canoeing on the several lakes on the installation," O'Bryan said. 

They were also able to share valuable information with different departments. For instance, resident feedback showed wait times for referrals and appointments were too long at the base health clinic. So, O'Bryan was able to share that data with the health commander.

The short polls brought additional actionable data. The Samuel Adams Brewhouse, for example, is a popular restaurant on base. Poll reports revealed that many diners were unhappy with long pay lines. So they quickly added another cashier.

"The boots-on-the-ground survey we did with [Polco] provided us a lot more valuable information," O'Bryan said. "I briefed [the Polco] survey as a best practice at a conference for garrison commanders. This is the best thing you can do."

Innovate Community Engagement in Your City

Have you been looking for new way to reach your residents and collect better, more representative feedback for the best decision-making? Learn more about the tools Polco can give you the power to engage residents with ease. 

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