January 21, 2010 at 5:16 pm #89868
So what does it take to get more public involvement in local government? We are active on social networks, promote all meetings, are currently hosting town hall meetings, etc. and can not get much public participation. Our population is just under 35,000 and the largest issue brought up at our last town hall meeting was about the size of our trash cans!
January 21, 2010 at 6:55 pm #89882
Darrel W. ColeParticipant
Simply, meetings are no longer the be all and end all to discuss, debate public matters. People expect to be reached in other ways, including social media, email blasts, Web site, media coverage.
In all of these ways to provide information, especially re social media, are you engaging followers, are you aggressively getting groups involved in this forum, are you redirecting people to the Web site and is the Web site relevant enough and timely, or is the social media use like this:"come to our Tuesday meeting".
Who are your ambasadors? Local chambers? Civic organizations? neighborhood associations? Recruit these folks, go to their meetings.
Be specific in why you want people to attend or get involved, but also get them involved in the conversation in other forums.
There isn't one answer to solve your issue, especially if the biggest issue you deal with is trash can size. But, if you haven't already, you need a true public outreach strategy. Doing it piecemeal will get you piecemeal results.
I hope that helps.
Darrel W. Cole
January 21, 2010 at 7:24 pm #89880
In Manor we have focused on how to build long-term engagement of our population instead of just their one-time participation through the use of persuasive motivating technologies. Feel free to give me a call or e-mail and I'd be happy to share how our research with the Persuasive Technology Lab of Stanford University on building citizen engagement.
T (512) 272-5555
January 28, 2010 at 2:11 pm #89878
I've had the best success when I satisfied two conditions -- what I want them to focus on has to be more important to them than whatever they would have to stop focusing on, and they have to believe that the effort they exert will produce enough impact to make it worthwhile. If they can participate by sending a Tweet or posting a brief comment, it is more likely to happen than if they have to give up an entire evening to attend a meeting. But most won't even Tweet if they don't expect a result. Best results I've had are when I've made it very clear up front what impact their input will have on the final outcome, and asked for a level of effort that was only reasonable for that level of impact. A great resource, by the way, is http://www.iap2.org.
January 28, 2010 at 2:58 pm #89876
People don't have the time to go to meetings. And if they do, they'd rather do other things. What about putting meeting videos online... where the people are? You could bookmark agenda items (so that people only have to watch the items that are important to them). People could research the archived video to see what already has been said about a certain issue. Lancaster and Chester County, PA (as well as Pompton Lakes - a borough in NY state) uses our system to do this. Does this sound like something that would work?
January 28, 2010 at 4:47 pm #89874
First, determine whether or not there is a problem here. Generally people on engage with government when they want some new service or are dissatisified with existing services. Your low level of public participation may simply be an indication your constituents are satisfied and see no need to focus on your agency.
January 28, 2010 at 8:18 pm #89872
Great question, Mark.
My approach has been to provide as many channels as possible to receive involvement. So, we have community meetings, but we also have a phone line for voice and text comments; we have online live chats and web forums (fora); we have "meetings in a box," where smaller groups (churches, workplaces, etc.) can host their own community meeting at a convenient time for their members.
But I also have worked hard (as others have on this thread) to carefully craft and facilitate meaningful community dialogue. You want folks with diverse levels of shyness or extroversion to feel comfortable contributing, so you have small and large group discussions that are carefully designed and managed to ensure everyone has a way to participate in both. You can acquire the facilitation skills yourself or bring in other neutral facilitators.
Feel free to chat with me more about this.
Community Engagement Consultant
City of Austin, TX
February 5, 2010 at 1:54 pm #89870
You make a good point... "meetings are no longer the be all and end all to discuss, debate public matters. People expect to be reached in other ways..."
At the same time, citizens (especially the younger generation) want things to be convenient. One way to do this is to put the meeting videos online so that anyone can access them when they have time (on a lunch break, etc.). Archiving the video and minutes means that people can research (privately, on their own) what certain officials have said about a specific topic, etc.
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