The Connection Between Engaged Citizens and Citizen Behavior

At every level of government, citizens are working to learn more and connect, share their ideas, effect change, and improve services. And despite this growing trend of moving all conversations online, there are many government entities that are hesitant to formally endorse or launch this kind of dialogue. Common questions include: “what if the dialogue turns negative?” or “what if the top-rated idea is not feasible?”

We could dedicate an entire post or even a workshop to addressing both of these questions singularly. However, I believe that the most important reason to move past these initial doubts is the research that is coming out about the positive impact that civic engagement has both on the government entities and the citizens it serves. Simply put, the research shows that citizen engagement initiatives make life better… for everyone.

In a 2013 study from The American Review of Public Administration, the researchers focused on the relationship between the degree of citizen participation in highway budgeting and outcomes (like road fatalities and road surface quality). The researchers found that the greater the citizen participation, the more positive the outcomes. Additionally, the earlier the citizens were able to participate in the process, the effect was shown to be even stronger. Less road fatalities, better road surface quality? And all they had to do was engage the public? That’s an amazing endorsement.

Research also suggests that citizens who feel heard and considered have a higher level of tax compliance. An article by Torgler and Schneider in the Journal of Economic Psychology addresses this, saying “Citizens are more willing to pay taxes when they perceive that their preferences are properly taken into account by public institutions. Along these lines, the existing evidence suggests the existence of a causal relationship between citizen participation processes and levels of tax compliance.”

These are just two studies. You can find a list of positive citizen engagement in budgeting here.

But if you really want to find out what is possible with active and positive citizen engagement, feel free to join IdeaScale’s Norm Jacknis, Director of Program as he discusses challenges and opportunities, reviews success stories, and much more in this July 1st webinar at 10 a.m. PST.Register today.

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