Make the Creation of Positive Civic Experiences the Focus of your Parks and Recreation Strategy

Written by CivicPlus

Create positive civic experiences with your recreation programming, and keep residents coming back for more.

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Inclusive Recreation Programming

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It’s a juggling act keeping everyone in the family organized and on schedule. It can be challenging for time-crunched parents to sign up their kids for access to classes that align with their various hobbies and interests. Yet, these interactions have the potential to be some of the most meaningful, offering affordable, accessible ways to get out and get active. In addition, there are potential community members whose only direct interaction with their local government came through their local parks, facilities, and programs.

People love parks and recreation; if you asked them to describe the topic with a single word, you might hear descriptors like “fun,” “healthy,” “community,” and “educational.” What a powerful position to be the preferred department of the people. It seems like a no-brainer, so why wouldn’t people want to take advantage of your fantastic programs and offerings?

Often the biggest hurdle to residents participating in parks and recreation programming is simply avoiding a lot of the common snags of frustrating processes; maybe it was outdated contact information on a web page, a broken connection with a payment tool, or a camp registration form they had to print and deliver to the recreation office.

Simulation Learning through a Story

Consider a single mother of three boys finally getting everyone tucked into bed at the end of a long day. Her window of time to herself is brief, so every second counts. As she’s checking her emails and scrolling through her social media feeds, she sees a reminder that the deadline for summer camp sign-ups is the following day. She forgot. Knowing she won’t be available to take the boys to sign-up in person due to her work schedule, she’s worried she missed her window and hoping there’s a way to get them signed up online.

Two Diverging Paths

At this point in our hypothetical tale, the timeline diverges into two paths. Down one path, the user experience goes sour when the mother runs into a roadblock where she can’t upload the necessary supporting documents for registration. The woman manages to find someone to cover for her at work the following day, and she’s finally able to make the necessary arrangements dropping off the documents in person at the recreation center, but the damage is done, as she wasted valuable time and had to pick up a co-worker’s shift; further complicating her schedule.

The other path is a smooth, personalized, one-stop digital process that feels almost like a routine online shopping experience. The busy mother accessed the city’s recreation management system, selected her options, uploaded her documents, paid the registration fees, and then still had time to look through some of the offerings that she would consider signing up for in the future—yoga and a paint-and-sip class that starts next month.

Many potential outcomes fall somewhere in the middle of those two opposites. Still, you want to do everything you can to ensure you’re starting down the path of an impactful experience that creates a positive ripple effect that will continue to stretch outwards and touch others in the community.

The civic experiences you provide through your parks and recreation programming have the power to impact an entire community by driving civic engagement for all departments. That kind of interaction sparks real change, progress, and development and strengthens the relationship residents have with their local government.

Positive Experiences through Technology

Accessibility of Programming

A dedicated recreation management solution makes it easy for busy residents to find and register for programming online, day or night. Like the woman in our story, it’s important to remember that residents often work with few resources. Windows to interact with local government processes are often small, unpredictable, and occur around the clock. Consider all the shift workers who can’t interact during regular business hours. It’s crucial that your programming is accessible to anyone, on any device, at any time.

Integrated Online Payments

When busy parents need to pay for a summer pool pass or a recreation class registration fee, they likely don’t have time to write a check and drive across town to drop it off. Likewise, residents are unlikely to understand why they can pay their utility bills online but not address their parks and recreation fees, which also go to the city online. Give community members the customer service experience they desire and expect by ensuring that they can complete any programming process in a single, smooth, quick, and personalized transaction. To accomplish this goal, you must rely on intuitive and comprehensive digital solutions to make this ideal experience possible.

Approval Forms and Waivers

Some park programming requires supplemental documentation. For example, participants may need to sign waivers, provide emergency contact info, or complete other registration forms. It can be a significant challenge for staff or parks and recreation field workers to manually collect this information. You can imagine a little league coach unloading their truck with equipment, getting set up, and trying to wrangle excited kids to organize and follow instructions. Baseballs are flying, little ones are trying to find the right helmet size, and a crumpled paper-form blows out of the dugout and tumbles beyond the left-field fence. There’s too much to track and too much that can be missed or go wrong with manual documentation workflows. Utilizing a solution focused on digital optimization allows you to incorporate all the necessary documentation uploads right into the process of signing up and paying. This functionality makes a massive difference in the success of a particular program and the experiences of all those parents who have chosen to get their kids involved.

Long-Term Benefits of Positive Civic Experiences

Residents’ positive civic experiences can be built through digital solutions and technology, allowing people to accomplish tasks faster and more efficiently. In addition, the time and money saved due to efficient, cohesive, and integrated digital solutions will pay long-term dividends for your community through renewed trust, increased engagement, improved satisfaction for staff and residents, and rising revenue.