In order for governments to be open, responsive, and engaging, community members must feel they are active participants in building government, and that their participation can influence decisions about issues that effect them.
Technology can be a powerful tool for community engagement. It can help local government expand their reach to a broad cross-section of the community (and clearly see who is being left out), help people understand the issues at hand, encourage productive actions, and demonstrate how those actions are creating positive outcomes.Over the past five years, Code for America has worked with local governments across the country and developed a number of tools designed to increase participation and engagement. We have seen that there are five key elements of effective 21st century community engagement.
- Reach: Governments need to define the constituency they are trying to reach, with an emphasis on identifying those whose voices aren’t already represented.
- Information: Relevant information should be easy to find and understand, spoken in a clear, simple, and authentic voice.
- Channels: A diversity of engagement channels should be used, both online and offline, that meet people where they are.
- Productive Actions: Identify clear, concrete and meaningful actions that the community can take to reach their desired outcomes.
- Feedback Loops: An engagement process isn't complete until the community has been followed up with and shown how their actions have impacted positive outcomes.
When the community sees their actions contributing to positive outcomes for all people, we should see an increase in the number of people using their hands (and not just their voices) to help, and stronger relationships form between community and government.
Practice Community Engagement
We're publishing a set of guides, tools and resources to help governments implement the five key elements of effective 21st century community engagement.