Online Civic Engagement: Don’t Forget to Close the Loop

October 9, 2017 – Tom Zayan


When it comes to engaging the public online, a lot of thought goes into planning how to best capture meaningful feedback—or at least, it should. But many often overlook another critical step in the engagement cycle: reporting back to participants.

Telling people how their feedback was used is important because it confirms that their effort wasn’t wasted. That will encourage them to participate again down the road, which is the long term goal of online outreach.

That’s precisely why Open Town Hall features an “Outcome Statement” tab that lets you easily tell participants how their input was used to make a decision.

The City of Palo Alto has made a good habit out of posting a short explanation of how public feedback was used. Staff then sends the Outcome Statement to its forum subscribers via an announcement. Again, this makes participants feel informed and valued.


The Outcome Statement can also be a good opportunity to summarize feedback at a high level. The City of Sammamish, for example, recently used its Outcome Statement to deliver a short recap of opinions they heard—and we especially like that they did it in simple language that everyone can understand:

An expanded summary of the feedback received can be found at the end of this outcome statement, but here are the primary themes:

  • Residents love Sammamish for its friendliness, excellent schools, safe neighborhoods and natural beauty.
  • But there’s been too much growth, too fast, since the economy picked up.
  • Roads and other infrastructure have fallen behind population growth.
  • The traffic is terrible.
  • We need to slow down and let infrastructure catch up.
  • We’re losing too many trees to development
  • New development should fit in with the character of existing neighborhoods

The City of San Diego took things one step further and recently included a series of charts to better illustrate feedback. This high-level summary helps participants get a better understanding of where their opinion falls in the big picture.

Lastly, Outcome Statements can be a great way to remind people how they can stay involved. So, if that online feedback will be part of an upcoming presentation to government leaders, then post the date of that meeting. If there’s another related online topic, then link to it and encourage participants to participate - again. Or, if there’s a government staff member that the public can contact with follow-up questions, then post the contact information.

However you choose to approach the Outcome Statement, we always encourage you to use it to close the loop. It’s important to sustaining online engagement. And remember, if you ever need help crafting your Outcome Statement, your Customer Success Manager is always happy to help.