When working with our partner agencies, we often help them iterate their engagement processes from where they're at to help them develop flexible public involvement strategies that can work for all situations and require minimal training or adjustment of existing processes.
The City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department is undergoing a dog park study to determine the public's interest in dog facilities in the park system. As part of that process they have created a set of questions for the community and created an engagement portal on PublicInput.com.
Despite the proliferation of online discussion forums and social media, many agencies have struggled to embrace online dialog as a functional part of the public process. Their hesitation is simple - curating these spaces has historically meant significant investments of time and worry over what might be posted.
New tools are giving organizations the power to more efficiently manage public discourse within their comfort level.
Sometimes government agencies want “the next big thing” to solve their public involvement challenges. It's understandable: leadership pushes hard to engage the public, and historically efforts have been disappointing. This may lead us into thinking that we need a shiny new piece of technology, an off-the-shelf solution that acts as a community engagement magic wand. However, this is a bit backwards…
Today, while much has changed, some hasn't. Democracy, at its best, conveys the voice of the people to the institutions built to serve the people. But the tools, channels, and means of conveying that voice have multiplied.
As those channels have multiplied, complexity has reared its ugly head, making the simple act of listening into something much more involved than once encountered.