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Polco News & Knowledge

Voice of The People Awards Honor Unsung Efforts of Local Governments

a close up of the  map with pins in it - voice of the people

The VOP awards recognize local governments that make their communities better places to live.

Through resident satisfaction research, we have the privilege of learning about a large variety of wonderful and often unrecognized communities all over the United States. From small rural towns to beach vacation getaways to bustling big cities, each place has something unique to offer. But there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to keep these communities running and reach their full potential.

Local government innovations often go unseen. That’s why Polco and International City/County Management Association (ICMA) started the Voice of the People Awards (VOP) 14 years ago. The VOP Awards are the only accolades granted to local governments based on residents’ opinions and community engagement. 

These insights are gathered largely from The National Community Survey® (The NCS®), a national assessment that investigates resident perspectives on quality of life in their city, county,  town, or village. Nominated local governments receive the highest or most improved ratings on The NCS. Categories include the economy, design, parks, and recreation opportunities, among many others. Jurisdictions are also nominated for outstanding community engagement efforts using the Polco platform. 

But ultimately, winners and finalists demonstrate effective action on community feedback. 

“Residents know what it’s like to live in their city or town. They alone can give the most useful feedback on what they appreciate about their community,” said Michelle Kobayashi, Polco’s Senior Vice President of Innovation. “But people may not always realize the amount of work and resources that go behind great city services and amenities.”

Recognizing local government achievements on a national scale uncovers inspiring stories, new best practices, and innovations. 

For instance, Honolulu, Hawaii, made huge strides in renovating many park trails and other popular destinations during and post Covid. Hanauma Bay, had been heavily trafficked to the point of damaging the destination snorkel area. So the City began to limit the amount of people visiting at any one time to preserve the popular beach. As a result, Honolulu’s parks and recreation scores improved significantly from 2019 to 2020. For this, Honolulu won the VOP Award for Transformation in Parks and Recreation in 2021. 

Lesser-known suburbs like Tualatin, Oregon, scored well above the national benchmark for its water utilities. The City takes pride in its water maintenance and planning for future development. And because of their communication strategies, Tualatin residents are  well aware of any utility maintenance the City is planning. This led to high marks on The NCS, which won them the VOP Award for Excellence in Utilities in 2021. 

While 2021 was an impressive year, the 2022 VOP Award nominees are just as inspiring. The small mountain town of Gunnison, Colorado, the sunny island of Coronado, California, and the Chicago suburb of Orland Park, Illinois, are a small sample of the communities in the running. Each of the nominated local governments are taking on amazing endeavors with resident input.

“Each year on The NCS and the Polco platform, we see different local governments demonstrate excellence in improving upon and building a strong community,” Kobayashi said. “It’s a testament to the effectiveness of community engagement and learning from resident voices.” 

Recognizing Local Governments 

The VOP awards applaud governments for listening to the people who understand their city best—residents. There are many strong candidates for various 2022 awards, making winning an outstanding accomplishment. 

The Voice of the People Awards will be presented this September at the 2022 ICMA Conference in Columbus, Ohio. Follow Polco on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter throughout October for the full list of winners and finalists. 

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