Yesterday, I took part in a blockbuster of an online presentation, Preparing for Civic Engagement in 2013, which attracted over 600 registrants from local governments, school districts, special districts, and counties across the US and Canada. Clearly, the need to connect and engage with citizens is a hot and timely issue.
At the beginning of the presentation, the attendees were polled on their top methods to collect feedback from their community. Check out these results:
That’s almost distressing considering the explosive growth of social media communication. Convenience is king, and social media is swiftly becoming the most convenient method of engagement.
Presenter Chris Rynders, Market Development Director at Granicus, laid out some basic engagement goals for 2013, which included: meaningful social media engagement, collaborative governing with citizens, and a focus on gathering targeted feedback.
After discussing the contrast of old and new civic engagement methods, as well as how CivicIdeas fits in with these methods, Rynders passed the mic to the Minnesota Metropolitan Council’s Outreach Coordinator, Michelle Fure.
Fure’s story of creating meaningful engagement throughout a seven county region surrounding the twin cities was fascinating. Fure explained how the inefficiency of in-person engagement was not nearly enough. They established a CivicIdeas site to focus discussion on a 30 year plan for the development of the Metropolitan Council area, and, “start out with a good base of ideas.”
“We wanted to make sure it would be easy to use and it would require a whole lot of extra effort,” Fure explained of their decision to move to the CivicIdeas platform. Fure also was ecstatic about the self-governing nature of the platform, saying, “If folks are saying things that aren’t right, other folks are on the site correcting them before we even have a chance to.”
Fure wrapped up by going into some detail about the amount of traffic, the number of ideas, and the virality that was developed with the ideas. They were pretty amazing numbers and are continuing to grow.
Erin Bryce, Outreach Director for the City of North Port, FL, jumped right in after Fure’s story. I couldn’t tell which one I thought was a better presenter because they both were so… well… engaging. North Port set forth on a new endeavor for Bryce, “to inform, to educate, to listen, and to create a more connected community.”
North Port launched their CivicIdeas implementation as YourNorthPort.com, because it really was about the citizens owning planning for their city. They started out with soft discussion items – general ideas within a certain context. The encouraging success that developed with the site also brought about another interesting change; Bryce says that the previously Social Media resistant City Council was soon won over by the ideas and engagement occurring on the site, “since we’ve launched, City Hall has gotten really used to the idea of social media… We’ll be making the jump to Facebook and Twitter soon.”
Bryce went through a number of different ways that she’s now using the citizen engagement through YourNorthPort.com to improve the city, and then wrapped, like Fure, with solid numbers of what’s been going on.
Rynders came back to make everything we heard tangible by giving a live demo of the system, including the ideas, the voting, the commenting, the survey tool, and especially the analytics which even includes a geographic representation of what engagement is going on. Very powerful stuff… you should see it for yourself.
And then there was a surprise… Rynders presented how it now integrates with the iPad app, iLegislate as well as how ideas can be shared via twitter and facebook! It all connects, and connecting is the first step in civic engagement.