Tucked into the Rockies and adjacent to Boulder and Denver, Gilpin County is well-situated to take engagement to new heights.
Gilpin County began a year-long cloud transformation journey just before the pandemic hit, and rather than retreat from lofty goals, the County Administrator and his team adopted and implemented new technology and innovative approaches to engage the community.
Partnering with OpenGov, the County condensed implementation timelines from months to weeks to support virtual public meetings, stand up public communications websites easily, and deploy virtual surveys and workflows. After the Gilpin County’s business went from in-person to online, the County seized on heightened resident engagement to rewire its processes for planning and gathering insights, leading to unprecedented levels of engagement.
“Rather than retrench, we decided to capitalize on heightened resident engagement to gather the insights and opinions of nearly 20% of our population to rewrite the County’s comprehensive plan and chart an economic path through the crisis and into the future.”
Abel Montoya, County Manager, Gilpin County, CO.
Gilpin County is seen as an innovation leader nationally for its community engagement approach in the pandemic. Gilpin County was recently named a Government Experience Award winner (2020) by the Center for Digital Government. This case study breaks down Gilpin County’s best practices.
Increased community engagement from 3-20%
Government Experience Award winner (2020) by the Center for Digital Government
100% permitting and licensing transparency
Dashboards connected to strategic priorities
Building a Learning and Engagement Journey
Innovative engagement begins with asking questions and thoughtfully gathering feedback across a diverse slate of constituents. Jaime Tirado, Business Analyst for Gilpin County advises leaders to:
- Know your audience and design processes that allow you to iterate and incorporate learnings
- Build feedback loops through Stories/OpenTown Hall so citizens had the opportunity to engage and for citizens to provide feedback on the process
- Use multiple surveys to iterate on the priorities and needs of community
- Use digital reporting features (e.g., OpenGov’s Open Town Hall + Stories) to keep engagement and program transparent and constantly use engagement tools to make sure data provided is relevant.
An example follows of the steps taken by Gilpin County to reopen its Community Center. The process makes space for all voices in the process, but engages people based on their level of interest.
Pushing Engagement to New Heights
Gilpin County used the same approach when it launched its multi-stage, virtual survey sequence using OpenGov to gather the community’s ideas and preferences about the ideal future state of the County and develop a new comprehensive plan and economic development strategy.
The near-term benefit of rewriting the plan with community engagement was to ensure alignment of funding to priorities, and to earn a clear mandate for proactively pursuing development and project opportunities to enable growth and stability into the future.
The digital and multi-stage/stakeholder process that the County took increased the response rate from 3% engagement to 20%.
Surfacing Priorities and New Ideas
To gather responses from 20% of all residents, the Community Development Department and County Administration partnered on a sequence of virtual interactive workshops and well-designed surveys intended to gather ideas and preferences as well as to rank order priorities.
The true insight in Gilpin County’s approach was how they gathered input through a multi-stage process that let people engage at different levels but weighing all inputs and voices. Additionally, having a single, easy-to-use platform with OpenGov made it easier for residents to engage and participate in multiple activities in the same place. They could opt to participate in all or some of the survey rounds based on their level of interest, and they could see (on the same platform) the results from the previous surveys and workshops.
There were also some unexpected surprises revealed in the survey results. Gilpin County residents asked for greater transparency, and proposed interesting new ideas. One notable idea was the goal of attracting remote workers to the County amid the rise of “work from anywhere” options for employees residing in large, coastal cities.
Cloud-Based Workflows Support Modern Strategies
The results of Gilpin’s comprehensive plan will inform future land use and instruct permitting, licensing, and code enforcement workflows, which will be managed with OpenGov’s sophisticated workflow management suite.
The most critical part of deploying the comprehensive plan will be constructing the permits and planning to support new priorities. The County is using the OpenGov Citizen Services suite to efficiently deliver on new economic development priorities.
The key benefits of OpenGov’s Citizen Services suite are:
- 70-80% efficiency gain from reduced permit processing time
- Speeding up development timelines by 2x by enabling concurrent permitting and inspection workflow management
- The ability to maintain revenues, productivity, and quality through risk events and the need to shift to virtual work
Overall, the plan and suite are intended to build resilience and reduce risk for Gilpin County.
Starting with Transparency in Mind
Transparent approaches to gathering public comments and participation create greater levels of trust in the process and encourage greater participation.
Gilpin County has adopted OpenGov’s Reporting and Transparency platform to track its performance on priorities. The County is working to make more of its internal financial and non-financial metrics open and available to the public.
Even in this early stage, the County is bringing transparency to its permitting process. Currently, all land permits at all stages are searchable by the public. This proactive move represents the first step toward building a transparent process that aligns with the comprehensive plan.
With the right tools and the right approach, even small teams can have a large impact on their community and across other local governments who adopt their approaches.
About Gilpin County
The county encompasses about 150 square miles of mountainous terrain that ranges in elevation from 6,960 feet to 13,294 feet. The county was named for the first territorial governor, William Gilpin. Most residents live in the unincorporated areas of the county. Its two main cities are Central City (population 700), the county seat, and Black Hawk (population 115). Together, these cities form the Central City and Black Hawk National Historic District, renowned for its mining history. The county also includes the small community of Rollinsville, as well as the ghost towns of Nevadaville and Russell Gulch.
Reporting & Transparency
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