5 Civic Engagement Examples to Help Reinvigorate Collaboration and Communication in Your Neighborhood

Communication is the key to a vibrant community. That principle governs how we build websites at Town Web – they are communication platforms. But the lines must be two-way. As public life returns to normal after two difficult years, it's time to reinvigorate the traditional relationship between communities and their local governments.

Communication is the key to a vibrant community. That principle governs how we build websites at Town Web – they are communication platforms. But the lines must be two-way. As public life has largely returned to normal after Covid-19, it's time to reinvigorate the traditional relationship between communities and their local governments.

Luckily, to increase civic engagement, organizations have many options available. Read on to learn about how it strengthens communities, see some civic engagement examples, and get some ideas your administration can employ to get more people involved.  


Civic Engagement Relates to the Democratic Process

Civic engagement is a notoriously tricky concept to define. It means many things to many people, differing in expression across communities and age groups. However, certain qualities persist, and engaged citizenship in one community will share several behavior patterns with others. 

In general, civic engagement consists of the ways civic groups participate in public life to improve their communities, shape their identities, and plan for their futures. Voting is a simple example. But others abound, and they all reflect a vibrant expression of the democratic process.

For the purposes of this article, civic engagement means how citizens communicate and collaborate with their government to help improve their community.


Engaged Citizens Communicate and Collaborate to Improve Their Lives

Our definition of civic engagement is the same as a good definition for the democratic process. Communication and collaboration between people and government benefit everyone, mainly because the people are the government. Peacefully living together requires people to assemble, voice their concerns, and reach a consensus.

Small government administrations can secure many benefits for their community by fostering civic engagement. Some of these benefits include –

Better Government – When people voice their concerns and opinions constructively, the government can better address their needs.

Better Sense of Community – The members of the city, town, or neighborhood will feel like more of a team with shared interests and values.

Better Understanding of Government – Many people have no idea how local government functions. To them, decisions seem arbitrary. However, engaged citizens understand and participate in the decision-making process.

Increased Personal Responsibility and Human Capital – Citizens learn that meeting their civic responsibilities helps people, and they develop the skills they need to participate in the government more fully.

Lower Crime – A study from the American Sociological Review links decreasing crime rates to locally formed civic groups focusing on community building.


How We Chose Ideas for Engaging Civic Groups 

We chose the civic participation examples below by considering 3 criteria –

Setup cost

Type of engagement they encourage

Popularity with residents

Each initiative below has a balance of all 3 criteria. They are not cost-prohibitive, especially if they focus on volunteer labor. Furthermore, some options invite residents to participate directly, while others help with awareness of engagement options. Finally, all 5 options are consistently popular among residents.


How to Increase Civic Engagement: 5 Steps Your Administration Can Take


#1 – Use Public Opinion Polls

Your local government website is the #1 way to communicate with residents. Use it! Whether your municipality has a mayor, select board, or town council, test the waters well ahead of public debates or significant decisions.

How Do They Increase Engagement?

People have opinions, and they want to be heard. Unfortunately, most local governments have low engagement because the citizens don't think their opinion matters. However, you can change this dynamic by adopting a product marketing mindset.

According to Forbes, “Without your customers’ honest opinions, it’ll take longer to cultivate a loyal audience."  Loyal customers are engaged customers, and frequently asking your residents' opinions is a great way to win them over.

Every community is different, but there is no limit to what you can poll. Consider some of the following ideas to get started –

·  Public works proposals

·  Budgetary issues

·  School policies

·  Parks and rec. facilities

·  Community festivals/celebrations

·  Garbage removal/recycling

·  Names for (new) municipal structures

·  Community branding


Key Takeaway

Public opinion polls increase civic engagement by allowing citizens to communicate their opinions quickly to the government. As in business, listening to your "customers" increases loyalty – and loyal customers develop into brand ambassadors.


#2 – Distribute Physical Content Marketing

While the website is perfect for timely communication, physical memorabilia can leave a lasting impression. Consider releasing a monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly town/city magazine to residents and businesses.

How Does It Increase Engagement

Official publications are advertisements for government-sponsored events and can reach citizens who do not (yet!) visit the website frequently. In addition, by highlighting local businesses, activities, and whatever else the town has to offer, they will encourage residents to get out and circulate about their community more.  

Dedicating pages of your magazine to the citizens themselves is a fantastic way to drive engagement. For instance, short pieces highlighting volunteer work can memorialize expressions of civic engagement and inspire others to follow suit.   


Your publication does not need to be expansive, especially if there are budgetary concerns. The data show that simple content-based updates lead to higher customer engagement. Therefore, here are a few tips to help you get started with planning physical content– 

·  Think Ahead – Define a time span. Get info far enough in advance to make publishing it worthwhile.

·  Partner with Businesses – You can sell advertising to local businesses for an excellent win-win.

·  Use Pictures – Citizen submissions (als user generated content) are examples of engagement in and of themselves. By showing pictures that highlight your community in action is excellent reinforcement for even more civic engagement. 

·  Whole of Government Approach – Get something from every department for each issue. Anything that highlights civic engagement or announces new opportunities to participate is valuable.

·  Cross-Promotion – Put a PDF copy on the website and advertise the publication on social media.


Key Takeaway

Physical publications increase engagement by communicating to the citizens and reminding them what the community has to offer. Moreover, they are fantastic opportunities to commemorate and honor engagement that has already happened while highlighting opportunities on the horizon.


#3 – Build A Community Preparedness Team

Unfortunately, not all civic engagement examples are leisurely volunteering at festivals or assisting food banks. Almost every city or town sometimes experiences extreme weather, and a volunteer preparedness team can augment the official workforce of the local government during emergencies.


How Does It Increase Engagement?

Community preparedness teams increase engagement by involving citizens in emergency planning. FEMA includes neighborhood-based groups on its list of important stakeholders. Their meetings should be regular and open-door. The more residents involved in the planning, the more prepared the community will be for emergencies. 

Furthermore, disaster planning requires thorough community surveying to identify people who are most likely to require special assistance in an emergency. The preparedness team members can liaise between the local government and community assisted living centers, private schools, and medical facilities. 


Key Takeaway

Community preparedness teams are civic engagement examples for residents to collaborate with the local government's emergency services and help plan, organize, and execute a community disaster plan.


#4 – Make Government Officials Accessible

Good CEOs need to be accessible to their employees. Likewise, good town managers, mayors, and other officials should dedicate time to active engagement with their constituents. For best results, pick a casual setting – preferably with food.


How Does It Increase Engagement 

Engagement is a two-way street. Too many businesses suffer the catastrophic results of executives who spend all their time in an office. Municipal governments are the same. If civic engagement is communication and collaboration, the people at the top can get the ball rolling personally. 

Accessibility might look different depending on individual preference, but informal "coffee breaks" or a "lunch and learn" are popular small group formats. Residents often feel much more comfortable asking questions or raising concerns outside of town meetings, and a coffee shop is a perfect environment for relaxed conversation.

Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page host a company-wide Q&A for 30 minutes every Friday. Some c-suite types prefer an open door policy. This civic engagement examples shows a willingness to hear the concerns of residents and community members. 


Key Takeaway

An accessible executive is as good a policy in local government as in business. Employees and citizens prefer an environment where they feel the leadership is interested in what they think and have an open line of communication.


#5 – Produce Your Own News Show

Video content is another way for a local government to leverage its online presence to encourage more engagement in the community. The principle is similar to producing physical content like magazines – reminding the community what they have to offer.


How Does It Increase Engagement?

Transparency builds engagement. This is true in business and government by using civic engagement examples like producing a local show that recaps the last week and previews the next, will highlight how residents have collaborated with the administration and inform people of upcoming opportunities to do the same. 

In addition, you can engage the public in the production itself. For example, the A/V department of the local high school could assist in production, perhaps offering credit to students. Furthermore, citizens with media expertise might volunteer to help. Finally, of course, you could also call for people to assemble their own short segments for inclusion.

Here are some ideas for events, services, and opportunities for engagement you could do stories on –

·  Coming events

·  Registrations for events

·  Recycling tips

·  Seasonal safety tips

·  Public works updates

·  Local business profiles

·  Reports on volunteer programs

·  Election procedure changes/updates

·  Road construction updates

·  Committee meeting recaps


Key Takeaway

Producing a weekly local news video is another civic engagement examples to boost engagement. It informs the citizens of what the community has accomplished over the last week and lets them know what opportunities are right around the corner.


Take Initiative, Use These Civic Engagement Examples to Entice Your Citizens into Getting Engaged

As part of a healthy democratic process, citizen engagement measures how effectively residents and administrations work together to improve their communities. As we emerge from two years of restrictions curtailing traditional engagement, many options exist to jump-start the process.     

Each community has a unique personality, but our civic engagement examples present options for local government administrations to adapt to their residents' needs. Reach out to us at Town Web to discuss even more ideas on how your administration can encourage citizens to take an active role in shaping your community

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