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5 Ways to Improve Citizen Engagement Initiatives
Source: www.govtech.com
Source Date: Monday, March 18, 2013
Created: Mar 25, 2013

In the public sector today, citizen engagement and participation are crucial, as shown by the vast array of state and local governments on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus. 

As GovLoop reports, when citizen participation programs are implemented effectively, more citizens are brought into the decision-making process, which means government can ultimately be more responsive to community needs.

But as with most things, citizen engagement programs are not without their problems -- they can "lead to gridlock, lack of consensus, abuses to power, manipulation of facts or the politicalization of issues," wrote Senior Research Analyst Pat Fiorenza.

To avoid the potential negative aspects of citizen engagement, governments are encouraged try these five things:

1. Provide an Easy-to-Use Platform for Innovation and Engagement
When it comes to interacting with government, citizens should be empowered and engagement should be easy. They should be able to quickly retrieve data, submit forms and find the information they need. 

2. Empower Citizens
Give some authority and power in the decision-making process to citizens closest to the issues -- think neighborhood groups, councils and/or community activists -- as they can provide insights on funding allocations and cultural issues, and help develop community partnerships. 

3. Develop a Comprehensive Communications Strategy 
For citizen engagement to truly work, government must create a comprehensive communications strategy -- that includes reaching out and broadcasting to citizens on a routine basis via email, SMS, social media, advertisements, door to door, at in-person events or hosting informational sessions.

4. Provide Incentives
For citizen engagement to really work, there need to be incentives for both citizens and government employees, and how to incentivize is a decision that requires a manager to invest the time to focus on what will motivate the team while also aligning with budgetary and legal restrictions.

5. Provide Sufficient Staffing, Resources and Success Metrics
Clear goals, objectives and measurements must be identified to track citizen engagement initiatives, and proper staffing and resources must be allocated to the initiative. Retaining a sense of fairness as to how resources are allocated across a city is also essential. 

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