When local governments actively involve residents in local decision-making processes, they gain invaluable new knowledge and perspectives from community members. This inclusivity ensures that policies are tailored to the real needs of the community and address any concerns the public may have regarding their community. However, focusing on community engagement fosters a sense of transparency, trust, and partnership between the government and its citizens, enhancing overall civic participation throughout the community.
A strong community engagement strategy aims to help local governments make better, informed decisions and provide improved municipal services to residents through government municipal software solutions. By making efforts to improve community engagement such as involving the public in decision-making, your local government is able to help create a cohesive community culture and shared community vision. Improved community engagement creates various better outcomes for city officials and community members alike, as streamlined communications between residents and their government leaders creates a more clear path for elected officials to learn best ways to improve the community.
The struggles local government officials too often face trying to get constituents to engage in the community, local politics and local matters can finally cease now. An effective community engagement strategy helps local governments engage with their constituents and this guide will tell you exactly what to prioritize in your municipality's community engagement plan.
What Is a Community Engagement Strategy?
Community engagement strategy refers to the strategic organization of community events, outreach, and initiatives to get citizens involved in local government decision-making and community building. The intention of the community engagement strategy is to engage citizens regularly in the workings of their local government, improve communications between constituents and their government leaders, and ensure citizens are enjoying the government services available to them.
Take a look at GovPilot’s Constituent Engagement Software.
Common Challenges Local Governments Face with Unengaged Citizens
Without proper plans in place, including a strong community engagement strategy, municipal governments face challenges throughout the entire community. Here are a few challenges that a local government community engagement strategy can mitigate.
1. Lack of Representation of Community Population
Lack of community representation is one of the biggest challenges facing government officials when they attempt to improve their rates of community engagement. It can be difficult to understand the needs of different groups and cultures within your community if they are unengaged with the local government. Different groups and cultures often go underrepresented because they are unengaged with the local government, this affects decision making for policies that should be inclusive for all community members.
Check out GovPilot’s tips on Growth Management Strategy For Local Governments.
2. Lack of Voter Turnout
When citizens are unengaged in their local community and local politics, this leads to a lack of decision making input from the general public. When citizens don’t show up to vote, their opinions about the city they live in go unvoiced, and the local government isn’t made aware of what community improvements they should be prioritizing. The only way to mitigate this lack of voter turnout is by engaging constituents and getting them passionate about voting.
3. Lack of Turn Out At Community Events
Often, local governments host community events but don’t receive the citizen turnout that they hope for, meaning citizens don’t know about the events, or simply don’t care about showing up. A lack of citizen involvement in community events makes it impossible to foster a shared vision for the community and boost citizen pride and comradery in their city. Supporting local businesses and improving upward mobility also often slips to the back of the priority list for citizens when they are unengaged, and this negatively impacts and slows down your local economy.
Read more about how to improve your local economy with our guide, How Municipalities Can Drive Local Economic Development.
4. Lack of Civic Pride
A lack of sense of local pride and unity in a shared vision for the community is detrimental to the well-being of citizens and the culture of your city. When citizens are uninterested or generally unengaged in community matters there is so little community engagement, leading to citizens potentially feeling isolated in their community and not fully enjoying their home city.
Learn more about how to mitigate a lack of civic pride and engagement with GovPilot’s Constituent Engagement Software.
The Benefits of Improved Community Engagement
Community engagement has the potential to transform your community and community life for your constituents. Here are some key benefits of improved citizen engagement.
More Informed Decision-Making Insight
Hearing directly from community members helps policy makers decide what to prioritize in policies and local initiatives. It is impossible to transform your municipality into a more ideal home for constituents if you have no idea what they want from their leadership. Gaining insight from constituents about their specific needs, requests, grievances, or challenges will help guide your local elected officials on the most pressing changes that should be made in your municipality to benefit constituents.
Increased Trust For Government Officials
In today’s age, transparency in government is vital. Constituents want and deserve to know exactly what is going on in their community and local government so they can weigh in, express their opinions and hold their local leaders accountable. More transparency in government fosters trust between citizens and their government, improving quality of life for community-members and influencing re-election for city leaders!
Learn everything you need to know about Building Trust in Local Government.
Improved Constituent Services
One of the most important aspects of governance today is the delivery of municipal services that serve constituents and address their specific needs. These government provided services fill in the gaps for many community members, providing them with the necessary resources to thrive in your community. Sometimes constituent services for the elderly, veterans, and people with disabilities in your community need extra focus, or are not up to par. Hearing directly from constituents which services are lacking, or which services they utilize most will help your local leaders learn which services are worth more resource and fund allocation.
Learn everything about How To Make Government Services Better for Citizens.
More Accurate Allocation of Resources
When citizens do not weigh in on projects or services that they value most, funding may be directed to projects or programs that do not align with the actual needs of the community. Civic engagement and community input help officials learn where to best allocate resources, government man hours, funding, and city planning.
- GovTip: Depending on your region in the U.S, your resource allocation may vary to account for natural weather and potential emergencies. Consider utilizing GIS Mapping Software from GovPilot to analyze the specific geographic conditions of your municipality and understand where to dedicate resources for disaster preparedness.
Learn more about How To Utilize GIS Maps In Local Government.
Key Ways To Get Constituents Engaged In Their Community
Getting constituents involved is not as difficult as it might seem. Focus on these efforts when building a local government engagement strategy.
Social Media Outreach
Flyers and news updates are for engagement strategies of the past, not enough citizens are reached with those outdated methods of connecting to constituents. Utilize social media as one of the most vital tools to reach constituents; virtually all constituents already use social media on a daily basis so it will not be difficult to make posts that reach their mobile phones. Improve your local governments local government social media strategy by regularly posting community updates on various social media platforms, ensuring that your updates will reach the phones of your constituents.
Digital Forms and Applications
One of the most important parts of constituent management is getting citizens engaged in their community, meaning we want them applying for permits and licenses to engage in the workings of the locality. Making forms and applications available online simplifies the process of getting involved in the community for constituents, increasing the rates of participation for various activities that require pre-registration throughout the city. Don’t make constituents travel all the way to city hall when you can simply provide forms online in a paperless capacity, which are automatically sent to the appropriate issuing government department and are uploaded to the government cloud.
Read this guide to learn more about How Online Government Permitting Software Works.
Interactive Government Websites
Government websites have always been regarded as notoriously bland and unhelpful, which is why many constituents are likely not logging on to check for community updates. Ensure that your government website is updated regularly to guarantee constituents can rely on it for important information about the municipality.
Online polls are one of the most powerful tools for gauging constituent opinion. Allowing constituents to utilize convenient online methods of voicing their opinion will make it simpler for government officials and citizens alike to communicate with one another and get on the same page about policy and initiatives in the community.
Free Community Events And Outreach Programs
Don’t underestimate the power of giving free things to constituents. Hosting events for the community such as in person activities, and programs or local online meetings and workshops will allow constituents to engage with their fellow community members and local government officials alike. Constituents will be encouraged to come attend free community events if they see them advertised on social media and your local government website. These events don’t only encourage constituents to engage in the community but also to bond and build morale with other residents.
Sponsor Volunteer Programs
Volunteer programs are often not very publicized for constituents to hear about and get involved with, meaning lots of volunteer spots are left open, and the community doesn’t receive as much care as it may need. Post online sign up options for volunteer opportunities and utilize GovPilot’s online volunteer signup software to streamline sign ups and make them more convenient.
Check out GovPilot’s Volunteer Registration Form.
Which Government Software Solutions Can Help Improve Community Engagement
Look into these software solutions to learn more about easy ways to make your local government community engagement strategy strong.
Report-A-Concern citizen reporting software allows constituents to notify their local government officials of concerns or damaged infrastructure that need to be addressed within the community right from their mobile devices. These reports are then automatically transferred to the appropriate government department for review. This software greatly improves citizen engagement and communications with their local leadership.
Parks and Rec software streamlines the process of maintaining public spaces and organizing public events in local parks or public areas. This allows citizens to enjoy their local public parks and spaces while staying safe and utilizing new and updated community infrastructure.
Digitizing registrations will make it more convenient for community-members to sign up to participate in community activities such as Pickleball, a popular and quickly growing sport in neighborhoods nationwide. This ensures constituents stay healthy and combat inactivity and obesity as well.
Prioritize Community Engagement Strategies Now
Local government officials need to take steps to improve constituent engagement at the local level to experience the benefits of a more engaged public community. The importance of community engagement strategies cannot be underestimated and now is the time to ensure your government has a solid one.
Book a consultation with GovPilot to learn more about how government management software can improve community engagement in your locality and help you make a digital transformation.