Governing Through Crisis Using Virtual Meeting Technology

Written by Megan Asikainen

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The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused an understandable abundance of caution, with businesses from restaurants to movie theaters, to public offices closing their doors to mitigate virus spread and contagion. While many private sector entities can facilitate remote work procedures, and others can pause operations or shift their service delivery models to minimize staff and customer interactions, local governments—perhaps now more than ever—must continue their vital service delivery and daily operations. The challenge in the wake of COVID-19 becomes how to enable citizen engagement, information sharing, resource allocation, and rapid information distribution at a time when local leaders are encouraging—and in some cases mandating—that citizens remain in their homes and limit non-essential travel.

Fortunately, private sector businesses are not the only entities that can leverage video technology to keep essential groups collaborating. Local governments can leverage live and recorded video streaming solutions to enable citizens and board members to participate in council meetings, town halls, and access other information, to ensure that COVID-19 social distancing protocols do not detrimentally widen gaps between decision-makers and their citizens.

Facilitating Virtual Council Meetings

To accommodate the implementation of emergency action plans, many local governments have suspended council meetings; however, these measures are merely temporary. With health officials unable to predict how long social distancing measures will remain enforced, local governments need to begin planning for COVID-19 Phase II operations in which they resume critical administrative procedures, but in a manner that still protects staff and citizens from the risk of virus exposure.

Not only does the return to regular operations ensure consistency of citizen service delivery and give citizens peace of mind that critical government functions are not impacted, but it provides reassurance for staff members concerned that without the ability to do their work on-site, that they will be forced into a temporary layoff.

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Remote Technology Capabilities

Administrations looking for technology to enable routine operations—whether in the short-term or as a proactive step to minimize similar complications during future crises and shutdowns, should look for the following critical capabilities:

  • Cloud-based hosting. Any operation-critical software that is installed on individual office computers will not do any good to staff members who are working remotely from their homes. Cloud-based agenda and meeting management software allows board members and administrative teams to collaborate on agendas and minutes, even if working remotely, enabling the continuation of essential operations.

  • Virtual Meeting Hosting. Once the regular cadence of public meeting schedules resumes, staff and citizens may still be under recommended quarantines. Without the ability to attend meetings in person—at a time when citizens are desperate for local updates—they can safely watch live or recorded proceedings from their home. While most virtual meeting software is designed for private sector business operations to enable simple video call interactions and recordings, software designed for local governments offers the types of integrations, features, and scalability needed for the public sector, including:
  • Live Video Streaming. In addition to using live video functionality to broadcast, record, and share council and board meetings, in a time of crisis and quarantine when citizens are feeling frightened and isolated, there is comfort in not just reading reports from local leaders, but in seeing their faces and hearing their voices. Municipalities can leverage live and recorded video streaming solutions to share updates from local officials, press conferences, and other news.
  • Digital Public Commenting Functionality. Local governments must continue to facilitate two-way dialog with citizens both about pandemic-related matters, and general operations. Online forms, citizen sentiment tracking tools, and citizen engagement, and survey tools are all scalable solutions to ensure citizens feel that they have a 24/7 channel for inquiries and feedback.

To learn more about how to leverage live and recorded video technology in your community to keep citizens informed both in times of crisis and times of calm, click below for information about CP Media live and recorded video technology from CivicPlus®.

CP Media Live and Recorded Video Solutions