Innovation for Meaningful Public Engagement
In 2014, the District of North Vancouver had a problem with public engagement. Entire demographic groups weren’t participating in engagement efforts, leaving the community poorly represented—particularly those under age 55.
“The old town hall is broken, except for the people who want to grab a microphone and yell,” explains Mairi Welman, Manager, Strategic Communications & Community Relations at the District. Legacy methods of public engagement focus largely on in-person and paper-based participation, and—as anyone working in community outreach today knows—that’s not where most citizens are spending their time. In today’s reality, almost everyone is on their phone.
The team at the District was fairly certain they knew what was happening. But before they jumped to solutions, they decided to poll their citizens in a statistically- relevant, demographically-representative survey, asking how they wanted to be engaged. The results were resounding: those under 55 preferred to engage online. The DNV also learned that citizens who consider themselves uninformed about a topic are reluctant to give any feedback at all.
The District isn’t alone in their engagement challenge. In 2018, Granicus conducted a “State of Digital in Government” survey of over 500 public sector leaders: 48% of respondents reported that their strategy for engaging citizens isn’t effective, and 45% of respondents wanted to use technology to reach and activate more people.