Yesterday, I spent all day in jury duty. In the end, I didn't get picked for the week-long trial but I found the whole process pretty fascinating. It's great to see a truly diverse, cross-section group of individuals across the city come together to serve in government.
Particularly I think there is a lot of lessons we can learn from jury duty to leverage for citizen engagement.
Overall, I was pretty impressed with the whole operation - huge show-up rate from citizens and most mentioned it was their civic duty and happy to serve. The county also did a great job of recognizing the inconvenience, speaking to the civic duty, and keeping things running on time.
So here are my 3 lessons that any citizen engagement project can learn from jury duty:
1) It's your civic duty - I was impressed how many people in the room mentioned that they didn't mind jury duty as it was their civic duty. I heard quotes from my peers from the movie Lincoln and The Constitution (first time I've heard more Constitution quotes than celebrity gossip in awhile). The judges mentioned multiple times that it was what made America great and the importance of juries to the process.
I thought this was awesome - it made me feel like I mattered and what we were doing was important. Most people are willing to make a sacrifice and help-out if you make it clear
2) Make it concrete - What I like about jury duty is it is very clear. Show up on this date at this location. Often citizen engagement and volunteer projects are vague in timing and vague in what they need. There's something great about simplicity - you are asked once on a specific day - most people know what to do.
Also it is concrete on what is done with your input. If you are on a jury, you come together and decide on a trial. Too often with citizen engagement programs, it's unclear how much of the feedback will be utilized.
3) It's about execution - The little things make a big difference. The city had obviously thought through the jurors
perspective and it was pretty smooth (free parking garage, quick security, friendly check-in, flat panel TVs, free wi-fi, cafe next to the room, and magazines). Throughout the day, the city executed well and it felt that they respected your time and was doing the best you can. In the end, it all comes down to execution and these items have a huge impact on whether
P.S. Why don't we use jury duty waiting time better? This would be the "perfect" place to encourage citizens to sign up for city alerts, ask for input on a city project, reminders about important deadlines and notices. You have a captive audience that is thinking about government and are bored in the waiting room