You know that your residents want to be more involved in local decision-making, but how do you involve them both meaningfully and efficiently? Community engagement can help by facilitating more active collaboration with the residents, businesses, visitors, and other stakeholders in your community.
Whether you ask your community for feedback and ideas on a specific plan or decide to dive deeper on the participation ladder, community engagement will help you uncover vital insights that will help you make more inclusive, data-driven decisions.
Why you should use a digital platform for community engagement
In-person town halls and community meetings have long been the foundation of community engagement. But only offering in-person options limits who can participate and skews views toward what the loudest ten voices in the room care about. With the addition of digital engagement, you can reach more people – in fact, using CitizenLab’s platform governments see an average 12x increase in resident engagement, including from traditionally underheard groups.
Unlike traditionally reactive online tools such as social media, community engagement platforms are designed to encourage more meaningful, productive, and efficient interactions. CitizenLab’s comprehensive platform is built to power your government’s community engagement efforts and comes with support from our dedicated team of community engagement experts to guide you from onboarding to launching and closing your projects so you feel confident in your approach.
So, are the benefits of a digital community engagement platform worth the time and investment? Have a look for yourself:
7 reasons you need a digital community engagement platform
There are many benefits to using a digital community engagement platform for your efforts. Here is a list of the top benefits we hear from our network of clients:
CitizenLab’s digital community engagement platform:
- Enables you to engage traditionally underheard or underrepresented groups
Do you keep hearing from the same loudest voices at your community meetings? Online civic engagement helps you reach more of your community so your efforts are more inclusive and your decisions are more equitable. When you run your community engagement project digitally, the people who usually miss your town hall because they would have to leave work early to make it on time, transfer multiple buses to get to the meeting, find childcare, or miss school tutoring can participate because you met them where they are – online!
According to Vonage, half (47%) of consumers worldwide have increased their use of digital channels to engage with businesses and service providers and 87 percent expect to maintain or increase this level. A digital community engagement platform brings this concept to local government and increases the ability of town halls and other policy initiatives to reach a wider and more inclusive audience.
- Provides a central, secure place for your community to come together
A digital community engagement platform offers the option to consult your community through multiple methods – surveys, ideation, participatory budgeting, deliberation, workshops, and information sharing – on one platform, which means you don’t have to juggle different tools and your community will always know where to go for the latest projects and facts. It also means your various departments can all run community engagement projects in one place to un-silo your efforts and keep them coordinated.
- Ensures access to the right information
Social media is a good tool for sharing quick updates but can lead to quickly-spreading myths and false information and social media is not conducive to building interactive, meaningful dialogue. On your CitizenLab-powered community engagement platform, you have the opportunity to provide as much background information as needed, including through attached documents, photos, or presentations, so you can ensure your community has all the facts and everyone is able to engage with your project on an equal playing field. Debunking myths by ensuring the right information is out there in the first place and a chance to ensure more equitable access to your knowledge base? Count us in!
- Facilitates more responsive and transparent communication, helping build trust
Trust in government is at historic lows. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center “just 20% [of people] say they trust the government in Washington to do the right thing just about always or most of the time” and according to OECD research “governments are seen by many as unresponsive to public feedback”. By using a community engagement platform you can increase transparency about your projects, including timelines and progress, and be responsive to your community’s input in real-time. In turn, this transparency will help build trust in your leadership.
- Makes processing feedback and ideas more efficient, so you can make smarter investments and win time to connect more with your community
Aside from being highly interactive and easy to use, a digital platform also helps you tap into technology that can simplify making decisions using real-time data. With a CitizenLab platform, you’ll have access to user-friendly dashboards that use Natural Language Processing and built-in AI to give you actionable insights at a glance. Visualize what people are talking about most – and least – using our keyword maps, easily search through community interests, and use auto-tagging to cluster ideas. Each month, we help governments automatically categorize more than 10,000 pieces of community feedback by leveraging our technology. One of our clients, the Youth for Climate movement in Belgium, was even able to organize over 1,700 community ideas into 15 key policy recommendations using our technology. That isn’t too surprising though, given that governments using a CitizenLab platform have seen an average 55% decrease in the time they spend on analysis and reporting, all while extracting more meaningful community-driven data to drive their decision-making. Imagine what you can do with the time you win back! Using some of it to further connect with your residents and implement the suggested ideas will go a long way.
- Builds support for your decisions
When your community has a clear overview of your community engagement projects, the ability to share their feedback and ideas, and a chance to see their fellow neighbors’ input they’ll feel much more informed. Once you make decisions and report them back to the participants on your platform, and your wider community, you’ll find more support for your decisions. After all, if someone feels their voice has been heard and you transparently share the data that went into making decisions, you’re much more likely to have buy-in from your community.
- Ensures you’re in touch with the latest trends
While the foundation of community engagement remains steady, the needs of communities and governments are constantly evolving. That’s why we’re continuously adding new features based on client feedback, including the virtual workshops feature we launched during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. More recently we also updated our dashboards to make your reporting process clearer and easier. By using a digital solution, you’ll be more flexible to meet the changing needs of your community and team.
CitizenLab’s community engagement platform is here to set you up for success
At CitizenLab, we care about your community engagement efforts as much as you do. Our team knows what it takes to design and coordinate meaningful online engagement, and each client gets dedicated support from one of our public engagement experts. They’ll work with you to enable the successful launch of your platform and follow up with additional support to ensure your tailored implementation plan is still working for you. You’ll also have access to our CitizenLab Academy, unlocking the best practices we’ve distilled from our global network of 300+ governments. Lastly, you’ll become part of the CitizenLab community so you can learn from and connect with your peers.