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How the City of Oakland Empowered Virtual Civic Participation

COVID-19 has been a game changer for every public sector and private sector organization in the world. It changed nearly everything about how citizens and customers interact with organizations of every shape and size.

That’s especially true in the public sector as the pandemic changed expectations for governments and the digital services and the experiences they offer.

Many citizens want to participate in their governments or communities but are discouraged by the red tape and time it takes to get involved.

Digital channels open doors for virtual civic participation, which can bring in a new wave of citizens who are eager to impact their communities. Strong technology services empower the community with digital access to the tools and resources they need to get engaged.

Just over a decade ago, any citizen who wanted to get involved with the City of Oakland likely couldn’t due to the internal disorganization. Government and council meetings didn’t have published agendas or minutes, citizens couldn’t give feedback, and it was difficult to apply to be on the city’s boards and commissions.

By using digital solutions, the City of Oakland was able to control the chaos internally and also provide ways for citizens to engage with the local government. This is how the city has changed:

  • Oakland now streams its city council meetings to the public, which also helps increase transparency.
  • The application process for citizens to join boards and commissions is centralized to a single website.
  • Citizens get regular updates about city news and legislature through a robust newsletter.

As a result of just three virtual efforts, citizens are more engaged than ever before. They have opportunities to participate and can easily see what the government is doing and get involved.

In a post-COVID-19 world, citizens are anxious about how they interact with others. They want to get back to some semblance of a normal life, but they are also cautious about the potential dangers that come from interacting in person. To maintain health and safety for citizens and employees, as well as provide a convenient and seamless experience, governments need to create strong digital experiences. It is critical to consider both the overall citizen-facing digital experience as well as digitize citizen services and engagement experiences that previously could only be accessed in person.

This blog post is an excerpt from a Granicus guide, “Citizen Experience In A Post-COVID World.” 

To explore practical frameworks, tactics, and case studies for modern digital services, download the full digital service guide here.

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