Governments Struggling to Share Info with, and Collect Feedback from their Communities

November 22, 2017 – OpenGov

Numerous city managers told us at the ICMA Annual Conference in September that they were having a hard time engaging their communities, and they worried it was preventing them from getting their jobs done. So this month we surveyed nearly 100 government leaders - from finance directors to city managers to department leads - to see how widespread this issue is, what’s causing it, and its effects.

Here’s what we discovered:

Seventy-eight percent of government leaders define citizen engagement as “sharing info with the community, collecting their feedback, and incorporating it into their budgets.” But many of them are struggling to effectively share info and collect feedback.

Forty-one percent say they “aren’t very effectively” sharing info with their communities. Why? Thirty-nine percent say they don’t know where to share info because their communities “get info from too many places - like social media, local press, word-of-mouth, etc.” And 25 percent say they “lack the tools they need to effectively share info.”

Furthermore, 61 percent say they “aren’t very effectively” collecting feedback from their communities. Why? Forty-nine percent say they “lack the tools they need to collect feedback,” and 38 percent say it’s because their community “isn’t engaged.”

This is bad news because they worry not effectively sharing info and collecting feedback is “reducing public trust” (66 percent); causing their communities “to be ill informed” (64 percent); and making it harder to “get buy-in from their communities and execute their strategic initiatives” (59 percent).

It’s clear government leaders think citizen engagement is key to informinginformation communities, getting their buy-in, and executing their strategic initiatives. But to engage citizens, they need better tools and more targeted communications. So how is OpenGov helping government leaders overcome those challenges?

Better Tools For Sharing and Collecting Info

Some great tools already exist to help governments collect feedback from their communities (like Open Town Hall). But it’s early days, and awareness and adoption of these tools is low. We hope to change that! There’s clearly an opportunity to improve upon the tools governments use to share info. But what peaks our interest most is the idea of merging these tools into a single tool that helps governments share info in a much more engaging, easy-to-understand way via via data, narratives, and multimedia, and collects feedback from community members. It’s an exciting opportunity we’re exploring.

More Targeted Communications

Regarding targeted communications, we recommend governments share info where their communities are already getting info - like social media, local news, and events. For example, a Northern California city manager recently told us the top place his community gets info from is their utility bills. So he places important updates in them. Genius! If you don’t know where your community is getting info, simply ask them - either formally in a survey, or casually any time you interact with them.

We can’t thank everyone who took the survey enough for their valuable input! We hear you, and are working hard to help overcome your challenges and help your government be more effective and accountable. And if you want to read more about our research, check out StateScoop’s article that published today.

Category: Civic Engagement