How Philadelphia is Changing Community Engagement

Citizen engagement is one of the most popular topics today in municipal government. There’s not a city out there that isn’t trying to figure out a way to get their citizens more involved and it’s understandable why. A new study came out that showed cities and states that have higher levels of citizen engagement, actually have lower levels of unemployment, fueling the theory that civic engagement can actually help spur economic recovery. Why is that? Well, citizens that are more involved in their communities are also more likely to vote, volunteer, invest in local businesses, establish roots by purchasing real estate, and much more.

So how can municipalities inspire their citizens to become more civically involved? Well, one simple way is to show citizens that you’re listening and responding to their needs. That’s what the City of Philadelphia is doing.

The City of Philadelphia recently partnered changing cowith PublicStuff to launch Philly311, a new mobile app that connects residents with city services. Philly311 is part of PublicStuff’s latest mobile v2.0 version, the most robust city engagement tool on the market. Now, residents, visitors and businesses can just download the app and use it to report everyday public service issues like potholes, broken streetlights, garbage and more, and have those requests sent directly to the city to be resolved.

The Philly311 app is part of Mayor Nutters plan to make the City of Philadelphia more accessible to everyone. Using Philly311, citizens can report public service requests and even access other important information related to City Hall, such as access to staff bios, city events, news, FAQs and more. Having a direct link to city services is powerful – and effective! Within the first few days of its launch, over 2,000 people downloaded Philly311. What’s even more impressive is that over 1,300 service requests were submitted and over 1,200 comments were exchanged between citizens and city staff members – proving this kind of social connectivity is not only desired, but contagious.

Another reason why this app is so popular is that the City of Philadelphia is fulfilling their promise to respond to citizen needs. When service requests are reported, not only is the city responding by providing comments and status updates, they’re actually addressing the concern. Take a look a some of the examples below.

On August 13th, 2012, a Philadelphia resident reported that there was illegal dumping behind their school. Just two weeks later, the garbage was taken care of, resulting in a cleaner and safer school zone.


Or take a look at this instance of Graffiti that was addressed immediately after it was reported:


Imagine if everyone participated to help report public serivce issues and the positive change that could happen as a result. Using the tool consistently for graffiti and other maitenance issues can help to improve the safety perceptions and visual appeal of neighborhoods, schools and businesses. The result could mean higher property values, increased traffic to local businesses and a deeper sense of pride and ownership among all members of the community.

Check out the Philly311 app to see how it works or visit PublicStuff to learn about the company that built Philly’s mobile engagement tool.

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