Effective Civic Engagement Means Utilizing Modern Technology
Social Media, Mobile Tech, and Live Streaming Can Bring Engagement to Citizens
The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) has many great resources for public officials, students and scholars, and interested citizens. Mark Mack of the GFOA has put together recommendations for municipal governments on how to best choose and use tools for civic engagement. Certainly the demand of citizenry, the buy-in from government leadership, and the resources available constrain the options of any government. This piece offers an appendix of specific tools in various price ranges. Regardless of demand and budget, Mack offers several considerations to guide decision making for implementing civic engagement technology.
- Social Media Integration
- There is a movement away from one-time, one-place meetings like community outreach meetings and budget hearings, toward integration and interaction through social media platforms. Such integration allows for advantages in branding and teaming with other community institutions.
- Mobile Solutions and Mobile Device Compatibility
- Having online tools that are compatible with mobile devices and their apps are crucial for reaching young people and lower-income communities.
- Community engagement software typically starts with a standardized platform, but customization is often possible and desirable. The ability to tailor a system is optimal when its purpose may be a forum, a platform for referendums, or a budget simulation.
- It is important to consider whether civic engagement should be integrated as a page on a government website, or operated independently. There are trade offs between considerations like data integration and citizen control, as well as cost factors tied to technical support and consulting.
- E-Mail Alerts
- Alerts are typically thought of as tools for breaking news and emergency alerts, but can also be used by civic engagement tools for collecting snapshot feedback from participants, and as reminders of scheduled events.
- Online Message Boards
- Online message boards are often included standard in most citizen engagement software, but should not be overlooked in their flexibility as a place for exchanging ideas, informal voting or referendum voting, and collecting feedback.
Key Takeaways Regarding Civic Engagement Technology
Mr. Mack laid out a helpful checklist of considerations and an analysis of available tools. The National League of Cities and Community Matters also put out useful resources regarding technology and civic engagement. Bookmark MuniNet’s Citizen Participation page for more information on civic engagement.
One technological aspect that it is also important to consider are the benefits of live streaming. A simple web browser search of ‘government live stream products’ will reveal all sorts of options at different price points. YouTube does offer a government streaming option that is free for most services.
Live streaming allows citizens who are disabled or have work, childcare, or other conflicts keeping them from attending public meetings to still stay informed of what is happening. It enables government to allow those citizens to digest government activity without the filter of media reporting, or at least as an alternative to reporting lenses. Employing any civic engagement technology gives any given government entity a reputation for transparency, even among those voters who may not utilize the tools.
by Jeffrey L Garceau