Soliciting Community Feedback on Your Parks and Rec Offerings

Written by Kathryn Boutwell

Innovative online engagement tools can help you catalyze the development of healthy community programming by connecting citizens with their local leaders.
The Three Critical Components of a Successful Citizen Engagement

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Citizens and families are looking for safe ways to spend their valuable free time in the community, and staff is doing their best to accommodate. It’s a challenging time to maintain a diverse recreation catalog. Parks and rec leaders are considering and developing new programs in the necessary absence of others and making innovations through the exploration of virtual programming opportunities.

Innovative online engagement tools now exist to catalyze the development of healthy community programming by connecting citizens with their government to identify efficiently where priorities, preferences, and concerns lie.

Convey the Message. Invite Contribution.

Communicate your desire to have an involved public. Citizens’ satisfaction hinges on the input being purposefully sought out, considered, and leveraged. Convey that feedback is not only welcomed but necessary for robust options to be developed. Utilize all platforms where you have an audience: social media feeds, blog posts, targeted homepage spotlights, subscriber lists, online forms/surveys, and even utilize physical flyers, ads, or personal presence at community events to broadcast your eagerness for participation clearly and consistently.

Create the interest that will lead to the engagement that will result in the usable data.

Port of Vancouver is an entity that implemented a campaign to increase citizen engagement and did so successfully, increasing their number of involved participants by over 300 compared to previous attempts, and thus, receiving difference-making community feedback for the project.

Educate Citizens

If you expect valuable input, set expectations with the pertinent information and necessary detail. Be specific as to the topic and keep the discussion parameters tight so that there are focus and clarity in responses and no ambiguity as to the project goals. Outline the process, detail how and when you will follow up, and how information is being used, and don’t forget to be honest with citizens about the time and effort it will require from them. Based on a 2019 survey, the average American adult has just four hours and 26 minutes of free time over the course of an entire given week. That’s less than 40 minutes a day, so be respectful and efficient.

Collaborate on Solutions

Lending an open ear to the voice of the public is one thing, but showing active consideration via the workshopping of ideas is a way to advance to new levels of progress, trust, and communication. Rely on powerful, multifaceted engagement tools to amplify your messaging while also creating an accessible digital environment in which feedback can be assembled in the most useful ways, effectively impacting the conversation with compiled data that can translate into tangible tools in your decision-making kit.

Help Them Stay Involved

Once you have citizens actively participating in the process, maintain your momentum to capitalize on the valuable information they share. Like a flame that requires fuel and stoking, the interest of a citizen will be extinguished if you don’t tend to it. It is important that once a loop of communication is opened, there is closure in the form of acknowledgment and follow-ups. Transparency leads to public trust, so communicate your findings and outline the plan for what is to come to ensure you keep users involved and get the most out of the time of all involved parties.

Analyze Data. Share Results.

Show your engaged public that you understand the impact of your research by highlighting your findings, showing how processes have been or may be improved or simplified, or with the announcement of new offerings to be featured in your recreation management software. Show off your work and let citizens know they invested their time in a meaningful way. It will go a long way to be able to show how your efforts were influenced, and your choices well-informed, by a strong, data-driven community effort.