Quality community engagement helps you tap into the collective intelligence of your community and enable more inclusive, participatory, and responsive decision-making. Digital engagement platforms like CitizenLab can help ensure representation in your engagement efforts so you hear more from traditionally underheard or underrepresented groups.

However, just providing an online community for your community members to engage and provide input does not guarantee a good and representative engagement project. Certain actions need to be taken to ensure real representation, and CitizenLab provides you with tools to make it as easy as possible along the way. 

Driving representation in community engagement through web accessibility and easy navigation

From the first line of code, CitizenLab considers how we can make our platform as inclusive as possible. We do so by following the accessibility guidelines of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which ensure our platform is accessible to people with disabilities. 

Moreover, we pay attention to user experience design to make the platform easy to use across all age groups and digital competencies. In these ways, we help set you up for success in your effort to increase diverse representation in online community engagement projects. 

Easily monitor how representative your project is

To further help governments keep track of the representativeness of their engagement projects, we recently released a new dashboard called “Representation Dashboard”. This dashboard provides an overview based on demographic data such as gender, age, education, place of residence, or other community information collected during the registration stage, compared to census data.  

Governments get a clear view of how representative their community engagement projects are and can gauge how equitable any decision would be, based on current data. Does it look like some groups within a community are underrepresented? Well, thanks to the Representation Dashboard, governments can now develop targeted outreach programs to make sure members from all corners of the community get to have their say.

“We are proud to be one of the first in the industry to make the shift to ensuring representation in community engagement is not just an afterthought, but part of the platform’s core offering.”

Marius Pui, Product Manager Insights at CitizenLab

Reach people using the channels they prefer 

CitizenLab does not stop at providing metrics and actionable insights on the current representativeness of your platform. We also provide various integrated messaging tools to help governments reach their communities. 

In 2022, we launched a new text messaging tool that allows governments to send text messages to their database of phone numbers and get a more diverse group of people to sign up on the platform. This SMS messaging option is an additional, low-cost way for governments to reach out and drive more engagement on the platform. 

Making it easy for all to participate in the engagement process

Every person engages differently with their community. Some may be eager to provide detailed accounts of their vision for a community garden on an ideation board, while others only wish to engage in surveys or quick polls. It is important to provide different engagement venues if you want to maximize the number and representativeness of voices in your projects. That’s why we continue to develop CitizenLab as an all-in-one community engagement platform. Our toolbox includes a wide array of engagement methods, from anonymous polling to live workshops. 

All this talk about representation, but what about the digital divide – how do you reach those who are not online? At CitizenLab, we encourage governments to take a hybrid approach, combining online and offline methods, whenever possible. Some of our clients even upload the results of in-person engagement efforts to their platform to provide a full picture of the community’s input and so that the results can be easily analyzed along with the input collected online.

Check out how the city of Lancaster increased their engagement by 13x with a hybrid engagement process. 

Representation in community engagement also requires  unbiased analysis

At CitizenLab, making representation in community engagement reality covers the full cycle, from engaging to analyzing. Our primary analysis tool helps ensure the analysis of the input is as inclusive as possible by getting rid of potential bias. The tool automatically provides a visual representation of the most popular ideas within the community. No longer do you  need to develop a predefined list of categories and categorize input manually, which will help avoid subjective analysis.

Furthermore, thanks to AI and natural language processing (NLP), our platform can cluster keywords, including the ones that may not be part of a larger discussion. With this analysis tool, governments can even spot interests that would otherwise have gone unnoticed, making their analysis more inclusive and representative. 

Find out more about how we leverage AI in community engagement

A good digital tool can increase representation in community engagement

Providing an online engagement platform to your community is already a great start in achieving representation in your community engagement projects.  But to ensure that you make equitable and representative decisions based on community input is constant work. To make this difficult – yet important – task as easy as possible, CitizenLab provides you with different tools, such as the latest release of our Representation Dashboard, across the journey. Moreover, we provide free online resources, and for our clients, our engagement experts are ready to help make the platform and processes more representative. 

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