Citizen engagement in the digital age: What works?: Page 2 of 2

Tue, 2016-08-16 10:42 -- SCC Staff

Framework for Assessing Citizen Participation Models 
By now, cities have launched enough experiments in citizen participation to enable us to create a hypothetical analytical framework to assess the types of citizen participation models appropriate for your city’s character.  Such a framework won’t automatically prescribe the right approach for every community.  But, by considering the variety of components in a citizen engagement strategy, city officials may more easily determine the best approach for the city’s characteristics and history.

Value Perspectives of Citizen Participation   

Government Perspective:
1. Provides “citizen enriched” data
2. Can result in increased perception of well-being within the community
3. Staff reductions possible if “counter services”, like notifications and financial transactions are automated
4. Opportunity to educate, inform and organize community
5. Different neighborhood voices broaden city officials’ perspectives

Citizen Perspective:
1. Improved quality of life is net return for time invested in participation
2. Opportunity to exert influence on a special interest
3. Satisfaction of active participation in democratic process
4. Opportunity to meet fellow citizens and gain new information
5. Opportunity to potentially organize fellow citizens

Modes of Citizen Participation
1. Ballot box
2. Meetings, events
3. Print material, newspapers, flyers, surveys
4. Citizen advisory groups, strategic planning groups
5. Websites providing information
6. Mobile applications
7. CRM municipal systems to help city hall manage all citizen interaction across multiple communication channels while keeping stakeholders informed 24/7
8. Social media
9. Streaming video
10. Crowdsourcing
11. Data analytics from IoT (Internet of Things) remote sensors and departmental operations data like police calls, traffic reports, etc.

Citizen Engagement Dimensions
1. Active (direct citizen participation with governing officials) vs. Passive (data collected and aggregated to show citizen preferences)
2. Single issue (fix potholes, design new park)   vs. multi issue (neighborhood meeting, set aside for city budget recommendations by citizens)
3. Informational (information on budgeted programs or pothole locations)   vs.  decisive  (citizen poll to select specific budget recommendations)

Citizen Representation Categories
1. Visitor, anonymous contributor of information
2. Citizen, resident, individual representative
3. Business representative
4. Community services, non-profit, N.G.O. representative
5. Neighborhood or geographically specific area representative
6. Elected or appointed official
7. Utility or other civic entity
8. State or regional government representative

Think you are ready to start? 
Think again.  Do not go forward without engaging all city departments and the city’s chief legal officer in the development of a clear policy handbook on citizen engagement and social media.  Here are six tips for preparation:

1. Policy must come from and be supported by the top level of municipal government.

2. Be clear about the mission, goals, audience and stakeholder roles anticipated in the use of social media to enhance citizen engagement.

3. Clarify legal rules concerning citizen engagement, social media and public records requirements.

4. Draw on best practices from other government agencies to write social media policies that are clear and easily understood by the public.

5. Develop a “style book” with rules on who, when and how a post is made by the city; preferred hashtags, comment policy, types of posts, restrictions on posts

6. Expect to revise, refine, rewrite as needed.

Smart Cities Readiness Guide …
Check out the Smart People chapter of the Council’s Smart Cities Readiness Guide for innovative approaches to encourage broad participation in city decisions. Smart cities encourage all city stakeholders to develop a vision for the city they want to live in.