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Innovations That Matter: Engaging the Digital Citizen

Citizen engagement is not a new concept. In fact, in the United States, you can trace it back to the first town hall meeting, which took place in Dorchester, Mass., in 1633. Of course, in the nearly four centuries since that first gathering, the concept of citizen engagement has greatly evolved. E-mail, websites, smartphones and other technology have transformed citizen engagement initiatives and empowered citizens in ways Dorchester residents never could have imagined. As it turns out, we’ve been debating the role and definition of citizen engagement for hundreds of years.

So what exactly is citizen engagement?

It depends on whom you ask.

GovLoop surveyed 255 government employees about new trends in citizen engagement, asking them about topics such as budgets and new initiatives for citizen engagement. We also asked how they define citizen engagement – and got 255 different answers. Here are some of them:

  • “Collaboration between government agencies and citizens to better serve the public.”
  • “Maintaining contact with agency consumers.”
  • “Outreach.”
  • “Getting feedback from citizens and then ACTUALLY using it to form policy and procedures.”

Though the answers varied, they shared several themes: openness, outreach, involvement and communication. And they all involve engaging the public through a variety of platforms – and keeping up with changing technology. We at GovLoop define citizen engagement as the exchange of ideas, information and feedback between citizens and public organizations. It represents interactions that can travel in both directions, making the agency both the sender and recipient of ideas and information via a number of mediums and technological platforms.

As we make our way through the 21st century, citizen engagement is continuing to evolve. New platforms and concepts such as geographic information systems (GIS), GitHub, open data, human-centered design and novel uses of social media have challenged the traditional notions of citizen engagement and pushed government into uncharted territories. As citizens grow more tech-savvy, this growth will only continue.

Our new guide on citizen engagement, Innovations That Matter, Engaging the Digital Citizen, will walk you through the new trends and technologies reshaping citizen engagement. We also explore how agencies and departments nationwide are experimenting with them. Technology provides the opportunity for creating a two-way dialogue between citizens and government, but all levels of government must be ready to use it in ways that improve awareness, accountability and act on citizen needs.

In this report, you’ll find:

  • Survey results from our citizen engagement survey of 255 of your government peers.
  • New trends and technologies in the arena, featuring the following tools and strategies: Advice on how to conduct citizen engagement from those doing it on the frontlines in government. Five steps to better citizen engagement.
    • GitHub.
    • Mobile.
    • Social media.
    • Google Hangouts.
    • Human-centered design.
    • Your Citizen Engagement Cheat Sheet.

Thank you to our industry partners for sponsoring the Innovations That Matter: Engaging the Digital Citizen.