When it comes to community engagement, most governments’ first concerns are the associated costs. Large-scale projects involving thousands of people must be incredibly costly, right? Well… not always. An online community engagement platform can reduce the cost of participation drastically. Let’s dive deeper into the investment and what you get in return.
The obscure cost of traditional channels
Town hall meetings are as old as democracy itself. They’re the traditional way to capture feedback and give community members a say in local policy decisions – however, they’re also a costly and time-consuming process. Town hall meetings take time to organize, often have additional costs related to refreshments and venues, require on-site staff, and have to be repeated throughout different phases of the project. Input collected during these meetings is difficult to process and share throughout an administration. What’s more, only a handful of residents attend the meetings, meaning the input isn’t representative of the wider population’s concerns.
With participant recruitment, organization, staff involvement, transportation, etc., costs can easily go up to $200 per engaged resident. And if only a handful of people show up, can you really consider that a worthwhile investment?
An online engagement platform reduces the cost of engagement drastically
An increasing number of governments are turning to online platforms to engage their residents. And rightly so: leveraging technology enables you to engage your community at scale, at a fraction of the costs of traditional channels.
Here are three reasons why an online engagement platform is worth the investment:
1. Engage up to 12x more residents on average
With the addition of digital engagement, governments see – on average – a 12x increase in resident engagement if the same amount of time and resources are allocated towards a good combination of online and offline vs. only in-person public consultation.
Why? Because through online community engagement, you enable more people to have their say, at their convenience. You’re allowing them to share their views in their own time, wherever they are.
2. You build a network to re-engage in just a few clicks
As you bring more consultations online, you build a database of participants that can be re-engaged easily on future projects – without additional investment.
Each consecutive engagement requires fewer resources on marketing and outreach because you have a network of community members willing to engage, and they know they can find all engagement projects on your centralized online platform. Or, you can spend resources in a more targeted way, and do outreach to groups that do not engage (sufficiently) with you yet.
3. Scaling engagement, not costs
In contrast to when you only focus on offline engagement methods, the cost isn’t increasing when you run more projects or reach more people. For example, when you need to organize more offline events, costs quickly increase. Think about the extra costs for:
- Food and drinks,
- Preparing for the event,
- Fees for consultants to moderate offline town halls,
- Personnel costs to staff events.
In contrast, the cost per additional online project is marginal. If you opt for a platform license with CitizenLab, you can launch as many projects as you want, without any additional cost.
Take our quiz to give you an estimate on the value of community engagement
Want to calculate these for your city? Give our calculator a spin and quickly get estimates* for:
- How many community members you can expect to engage on average in the first year
- The price per type of engagement
- How much it would cost to engage this many residents using traditional channels
- How much you are saving on average.
*The actual price depends on your specific needs & situation. Talk to our team for a personalized offer.
There’s a cost to a lack of community engagement
Moreover, it’s essential to remember that a lack of engagement can come at a much greater cost than investing in a good process, supported by the right tool.
Including residents in decision-making means that you can base decisions on reliable information. You get a better understanding of what your community needs, and are able to allocate resources accordingly. And the more residents you engage, the more you can rest assured that your decision is the right one.
Not consulting (enough) residents can lead to making unnecessary investments, not being able to check whether there is enough support for a particular decision, and/or failing to address the most pressing issues – with dissatisfaction as a consequence. This can lead to you having to reconsider your choices and plans.
Investing in online community engagement = funds well spent
It’s clear that adding online participation to your engagement toolbox positively impacts the number of participants and, ultimately, your return on investment. But apart from higher participation numbers, a good online engagement platform will also help you run projects more efficiently and better leverage the input you collect. We’ll cover these topics in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for more!
Want to dive in now? Download your copy of our newest resource: the ROI of online community engagement.