The impact of a global public health crisis has put immense pressure on local governments to deliver for their communities—and many citizens have found that support from local governments has been more important than ever in making it through the COVID-19 pandemic. From a renewed emphasis on community to the increased necessity of robust technological infrastructure, it’s clear that we’re about to experience a “New Normal”—and luckily, local governments are up to the task.
To prepare best practices for experiencing this “New Normal,” CivicPlus® partnered with industry leaders The Atlas, Route Fifty, ELGL, and Civic Pulse to survey 599 local government officials and staff on their perceptions and insights toward change nationwide (read the full survey results here). Our methodology for this survey was completed through virtual data collection, a diverse geographical makeup of respondents, and an oversampling of small and midsized communities due to the frequent underrepresentation of these communities in public discussions despite them being incredibly representative of most communities across the nation.
Citizen expectations of their local governments have always been significant, but somehow those expectations have only grown further throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the importance of community and accessible resources, when the COVID-19 pandemic ends, local government officials believe that there will be increased expectations from citizens to deliver services. Some areas where more than half of surveyed local government officials are aligned in their expectation of increased demands from citizens are as follows:
- 67% believe there will be increased demands for equity and affordability
- 58% believe there will be increased demands for transparency
- 53% believe there will be increased demands for quicker response times
Timely, consistent, and clear communications will be imperative for local governments to serve their citizens successfully. Local governments must prepare themselves with the technology and strategies to allow their leaders to be equipped with the necessary tools to provide positive and frictionless interactions, which embodies the civic experience. Expectations are higher than ever—and innovation will be key in meeting the moment.
Technology Matters: The Future of Work, Community Engagement, and Travel Trends in Local Government
One lesson that has been especially clear from the changes communities have incurred throughout this pandemic is the impact of technology. The growth of technology and its varying uses within local government will have a long-lasting impact on how citizens interact with their local government and perceive their civic experience. In our survey, it was found that the use of online citizen engagement ended up providing a plethora of benefits; take a look:
84% of survey respondents grew or maintained the number of citizens that were engaged due to increased online citizen interactions
87% of survey respondents found that the diversity of citizens engaged stayed the same or improved due to increased online citizen interactions
77% of survey respondents found that the quality of citizen engagement stayed the same or improved due to increased online citizen interactions
These improvements in engagement due to technological innovation set the tone for the critical role that technology will play in local government operations. While survey respondents do not believe that the role of local government changed significantly, respondents are certain that the method in accomplishing that role will change notably, impacting travel and the adoption of technology in more ways than we can count. This increased use of technology has also been tied to survey respondents believing there will continue to be increased retirements and changes in the workforce. Check out some of these significant takeaways regarding the use of technology and the trends of working for local governments:
- 80% of survey respondents found that the amount of work travel has decreased compared to the pre-pandemic era
- 68% of survey respondents found that they are likely to have a more flexible schedule and/or work from home more in comparison to their work before the pandemic
- 70% of survey respondents reported they expect the use of software and technology will be used to streamline public service delivery in the future across a wide range of challenges moving forward
The new normal is here to stay—and local governments are ready to adapt and best serve the citizens in their communities. The lessons learned from the past year will impact and increase accessibility to local government in an abundance of ways, improving engagement, service, and the entire civic experience for citizens and staff.