Have you ever had the experience of going through a lengthy process to develop a new plan or project only to have a few vocal community members publicly oppose the project at the last minute, claiming to speak on behalf of the wishes of the larger community?
The primary objective of online engagement is to streamline civic communication in communities by improving how local government officials and residents communicate. Augmenting the status quo by hearing from those they wouldn’t otherwise, getting more thoughtful feedback, or automating sentiment reporting to save city staff time over traditional practices should be the goal, and we hope those pursuing online communications find these to be true. These tools should better current engagement practices, unify digital engagement channels and supplement traditional in-person events.
During last year’s election, more than one in three voting-eligible Americans didn’t vote. While there are widespread systemic issues that contribute to a lack of voter turnout, there’s also another big reason we know voters don’t show up at the polls: They feel like their voices don’t matter.
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.