Defining the New Normal of Citizen Engagement

Written by Katie Gennaro

The life that we once knew has shifted, and we are left with what can only be described as the new normal.

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With COVID-19’s impact on governments and communities around the world, most if not all public gatherings have been halted. The life that we once knew has shifted, and we are left with what can only be described as the new normal.

Traditional methods for allowing residents to provide input, such as town hall meetings, are no longer advisable, seeing as social distancing recommendations have restricted our ability to gather. But now more than ever, it’s important to remain engaged with the community, to understand citizen sentiments, to co-create a plan for moving forward. Individuals, families, and businesses are trying to find a way to remain optimistic and to progress through this global pandemic. As a result, local government leaders have an opportunity to be a positive driving force.

Phase One of Public Engagement

During the initial stages of this global emergency, residents need to have an effective way to provide input on the personal and economic challenges they are facing. It’s equally important for community leaders to have an understanding of what their residents are facing so that they can provide the resources necessary to support those needs.

While communities are likely utilizing several public platforms to provide the most current and updated information, residents are also taking advantage of those disparate engagement modalities to express their concerns and ask questions. This diversity of communication channels means community leaders must monitor, gather, and respond to every sentiment in the forum in which it was submitted, whether it be a blog comment, form email, or social media comment.

Without being able to call the community into one room together, having an effective online engagement tool is critical. Even more so, a tool that can act as the central data hub of citizen sentiment tracking will help civic leaders remain engaged and responsive without becoming burdensome.

Phase Two of Public Engagement

As we progress through time and communities settle into the current environment, residents’ sentiments of the realities of COVID-19 will change. Keeping a pulse on these evolutions, and having measurable, actionable data can make a positive impact on local governments’ efforts.  In uncertain times, being flexible and pivoting to the needs of the community can foster a sense of trust that leaders are listening and responding accordingly.

Without a known end-date for the current social distancing restrictions, engaging with the community might also include co-creating the future. For example, gathering input on what services are still necessary, how those processes need to change and optimizing them for a new normal that expects digital service delivery

These are unprecedented times. Our communities want to work together to overcome the business continuity challenges posed by COVID-19. Social distancing does not equal social isolation, and there are tools available to continue engagement efforts across the community.

The Civil Space Engagement Model

Civil Space equips local governments that want to excel across the spectrum of engagement. It brings citizens into the elected leadership conversations that surround development projects so that citizens’ voices can be heard every day—not just on Election Day. Civil Space is a people-centric engagement platform built to help communities co-design better futures. It’s an accessible, online bulletin board and gathering place—a hub for sharing community-driven ideas and for collaborating with people on decisions that impact them. Civil Space is designed to educate and provide context to issues, raise engagement levels, and harness the feedback that matters.

Click below to start using Civil Space to co-create a future in the new normal with your citizens.

Let's Co-Create The New Normal