When you have almost 300 people in a niche industry sign up for a product announcement webinar, you know your company is making important solutions that truly advance an industry. When that industry is the public sector, it can be an immensely proud moment understanding how you’re work is benefiting fellow citizens.
That’s how I feel about working at Granicus, and I got that feeling again at yesterday’s Introducing CivicIdeas™ webinar.
How are you doing it now?
Granicus CEO Tom Spengler opened up the webinar with a poll question: What is the top way you are currently gathering ideas and feedback from citizens? Here are the results:
It’s interesting to note that not only does social media outpace phone contact, but combined with email, digital communication methods are clearly on the path to be the dominant method.
Smart Civic Engagement
After going over the industry trends of civic engagement, featuring the explosive growth of social networking, Spengler went on to explain how smart civic engagement works. He gave it a simple outline of Online, Productive, and Results Oriented. Watch the webinar for a full explanation.
Ultimately, the point is that this is what the public is seeking now. They expect this kind of high-tech and efficient interactivity from their governments.
Then came the main event! Spengler introduced the new Granicus product CivicIdeas. It’s a “citizen sourcing” social ideation software solution. Citizens go to their local government’s CivicIdeas website, offer new ideas for improving their community, vote for other people’s ideas, and offer feedback on all ideas. With CivicIdeas, citizens can easily contribute to government planning and decision-making with just a few key strokes. It also provides tools for government staff to facilitate collaboration without adding more work, increasing costs, or creating more risk.
Success Story: City of Austin
Waiting in the wings were the City of Austin’s Doug Matthews and Larry Schooler. They hopped on the line to tell everyone about how they came together to put together their CivicIdeas solution website: SpeakUpAustin.org.
While they ran the gamut of all the awesome advantages that the CivicIdeas solution provided, what was really cool was when Larry paused and really drove home a point I had no idea he was going to mention: they have had almost NO inappropriate content that has required removal. It seems the ability for citizens to flag content provides a natural honor system.
CivicIdeas In Depth
Tom Spengler came back on to give an in-depth screenshot demo, featuring the City of Austin’s implementation. Seeing all the features of how citizens can easily add ideas and interact with people, or how certain ideas can be made a marquee idea, or how easy the site is to administrate was very cool. But one thing really stood out for me: the Facebook plugin!
This thing was seriously cool. On your city’s facebook page, you can add a panel for your CivicIdeas solution! Citizens can do all the basic functions right there. I’m not sure I can even articulate how perfect this is considering everyone and their mother is on Facebook.
Q & A
There were a number of great questions asked of the guys from Austin. Here’s a paraphrasing of some of them:
What about the people who don’t go online?
For Austin, their solution is not the sole method of community engagement, although it is their most effective. They continue to use many other standard methods for community engagement.
How does the City of Austin manage the follow-up with a large population?
Acknowledgment of ideas is priority one. They try to write official responses to ideas as soon as possible. The user does expect some kind of official acknowledgment so that they know they’re not talking to empty digital space and that their input is meaningful.
How did you get buy-in from elected officials for this solution?
For Austin, this was more of an extension of the work they were trying to do in the first place, so there wasn’t much of a convincing process needed. It became part of their initiative and quietly launched it, allowing the solution to start working. The city officials then saw the value of the tool and now would never imagine removing it.
What do you do about impractical ideas?
We often underestimate the rationale of our citizens and those ideas don’t come around too much. It’s ok to tag as “not planned,” if such an idea manages to float to the top.
Finally, there was one question that was asked for which I have an answer we didn’t give out in the webinar. Check it out…
Can it be used for internal use only?
Yes, in fact, we use it here at Granicus! Our employees use it to add their ideas on what we can do better around the office, as a company or within our departments.
Check out the full webinar recording to see the completely unabridged Question & Answer section.
And that’s a wrap!