3 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid in Citizen Engagement

3 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid in Citizen Engagement
Posted on 08/13/2018
CivicLive Blog - 3 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid in Citizen Engagement

Citizen engagement—it’s on every local government’s to-do list, that’s why it’s not hard to find information on what you should do to encourage more engagement. While knowing what you should do is important to creating an engagement plan, there are also a few simple mistakes every local government should know about because they can easily hinder engagement. Knowing what these mistakes are and how to avoid them can help you boost your municipality’s citizen engagement.

Let’s take a look at three rookie mistakes local governments need to avoid in citizen engagement.

1. Relying on Citizens to Make the First Move

Engagement is a two-way street. One of the biggest mistakes governments can make is to assume that providing contact information and highlighting their social sites is enough to encourage residents to engage.

The fact is that citizens need to know their opinions matter. They need to know that their government values their needs, thoughts and feelings. That’s why incorporating things like polls and surveys into your engagement strategy is a great way to encourage residents to voice their opinions—but in a way that’s useful to your municipality. When you incorporate polls and surveys into your engagement strategy you’re telling your residents you want, and more importantly, value their opinions.

2. Not Knowing Your Audience

Municipalities are made up of a wide-variety of people, that’s why knowing your audience makeup is an important part of citizen engagement. If you don’t know the different audiences you’re catering to you can’t know or anticipate their unique needs.

When it comes to fostering civic engagement you should look to answer the following:

  • What is your audience makeup?
  • What are each audience's top three needs?
  • How can you meet your audience's unique needs?

There are online tools available to help you understand your audience, including tools for evaluating your website analytics.

3. Offering Limited Digital Engagement Opportunities

It’s the 21st century. Local governments, no matter how small, must actively work to bridge the digital divide between government and citizens. Offering modern technologies and online solutions is the best way to encourage your citizens to stay informed and to engage.

According to Pew, 39% of adults do political or civic activities on social networking sites—this includes liking political posts, reposting government content and following elected officials. Local governments must have social media sites, and they must actively promote their channels and use them to share information, news and encourage conversation.

To engage on the digital front start by offering newsletters by email. You can also stream city hall meetings over the Internet (whether on your government website or through your YouTube channel). Incorporating a mobile app enables residents to easily access and connect with your government.

Finally, offering citizen request systems and citizen relationship management systems provides a streamlined avenue for citizens to report on current issues and offer input on public processes. In turn, these types of digital solutions make it easy for governments to take ideas shared by the public and turn them into workable actions.

Building Citizen Engagement

Avoiding rookie mistakes is one step to building citizen engagement. Having a plan that outlines your audience makeup, your government’s goals for engagement and how you plan to encourage engagement are also necessary steps. But the most important move a local government can make for building better citizen engagement is to incorporate better, more accessible digital solutions that make connecting and communicating fast and easy.

West offers CivicLive solutions, a complete eGovernment suite of digital solutions that foster citizen engagement and modernize local governments. To learn more contact us today.

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