Collecting citizen feedback on how your municipality is doing with its strategic initiatives does, of course, take time and effort—but it offers myriad benefits. Not only will you get a better idea of how your city is performing from their point of view, but you’ll also make people feel more connected to their community by ensuring that every voice is heard.
6 Innovative Ways To Collect Citizen Data
1. Website-Embedded Polls
One of the cooler tactics we’ve seen recently is the idea of embedding survey questions on the municipal website to help drive engagement and web traffic. For example, the Fort Collins, Colorado, website includes a short but informative poll to collect data from residents about where they see the city in the future, and which of the city’s strategic objectives matter the most to the person taking the poll.
2. Social Media Strategies
You can use social media in two ways to collect citizen data:
- You can analyze feedback posted on Twitter by citizens. You could use a tool like Zapier to save all mentions of your municipality in a spreadsheet, and review those comments on a regular basis to gain some qualitative insight.
- You can use social media to distribute polls, surveys, or town hall information. While this isn’t strictly a way to gather data—it’s more about spreading awareness—this strategy may increase the responses you get. Therefore, you should consider it part of your citizen feedback model.
3. Town Hall Meetings
Gathering citizens together to share opinions in person is a time-honored tradition that can still provide value in this modern age. But be warned that the town hall method of citizen feedback could lead to flared emotions and off-topic conversations, so come prepared with a game plan to keep things on track. Additionally, consider holding town halls at different times of the day. A 9 a.m. weekday meeting will draw a very different crowd than one on Saturday at 2 p.m.
4. Call-In Campaigns
As they say, smile and dial! If you go this route to collect citizen feedback, be forewarned that some citizens may not be receptive to your message when they aren’t expecting your call. That said, individuals who are willing to speak with you will likely provide great information (phone calls are the next best thing to face-to-face interviews!) and will help citizens feel valued and heard.
5. Citizen Satisfaction Surveys
Of all the citizen feedback models listed here, the satisfaction survey provides the greatest amount of feedback from each person who takes it. Surveys vary in length, but can easily be upward of 100 questions. Not all citizens will want to (or have time to) respond to such a lengthy survey, but those who do will give you a lot of helpful data points. And if you’re concerned about creating this kind of lengthy survey, reputable organizations like the ETC Institute can help. They create citizen surveys for local governments regularly and do a great job of it.
6. Customer Service Questionnaires
If you want to collect data about a particular city service, you may want to hold that department accountable for encouraging citizens to fill out a survey after their visit. The building permit department of the city of Tamarac, Florida, got a much better idea of how its customer service was perceived after employees began encouraging office visitors to complete customer service questionnaires. (You can hear more about Tamarac’s survey strategy at the 14:30 mark of this on-demand webinar.)
Now that you have this data, don’t stick it in a binder and forget about it. Instead, follow these steps:
- Use the results of your citizen feedback monitoring program to give you insight on how to refresh your strategic plan. If you use these tools on a regular basis, you’ll be able to compare results month-to-month or year over year. Seeing where you’re making progress will help decide how to allocate your budget as you determine strategic initiatives.
- Make small adjustments each time you put out another survey or tool. Each round of data should give you some ideas about better ways to ask questions, different questions to ask altogether, and which questions aren’t getting a good response. We recommend changing no more than 20% of the questions each round, so you can compare consistent results and get an idea of trends over time.
- Communicate to your citizens how you plan to use the data. People have put in time and effort to provide feedback, so you owe it to them to communicate exactly how you’re putting their collective data to use. By doing so, you’ll encourage future participation in any citizen data gathering methods. Community dashboards are a great way to share this information.
Is your municipality gathering citizen feedback in a creative way?
We want to hear about it! Email us at [email protected], and your suggestion may end up in a future iteration of this article.