Best Practices for Streamlining Public Involvement Management and Centralizing Data

Centralize Public Engagement Data

Cities, counties, and DOTs all juggle countless projects at a time– projects that impact every socioeconomic or demographic within their communities.

At face value, juggling projects can seem like a blocker: too much work and never enough resources. But there are ways to turn this blocker into an advantage. When properly organized and managed though, ongoing and concurring projects can be a benefit to your organization, creating a trove of information critical to understanding the community and building rapport within it.

Traditionally, state and local governments have applied manual approaches to data management, but recently, leading these agencies have begun pressing for a more sophisticated approach. Consulting firms like Gartner now report data sharing as a top technology trend for government.  As the federal government continues to promote documented and measurable performance in equitable engagement, it’s more important than ever that state and local governments start to consider a data-centric approach.

Using a data-centric approach can help state and local governments to…

    • Make informed, representative, and defensible decisions
    • Promote efficient workflows for staff and residents alike
    • Increase trust and public confidence
    • Benchmark and measure engagement equity over time


Streamlining Public Engagement: A User-Friendly, Efficient Experience for Admins and Residents Alike 

According to the USDOT, meaningful public involvement requires “a combination of in-person, digital, virtual, and print tools, in languages spoken by community members, along with intentional and varied outreach methods to ensure that people with disabilities and diverse needs and experiences are aware of and can participate in opportunities to having a meaningful impact on decision making.”

That’s a lot to keep in mind when designing projects, especially for government staff who are already taxed with using and managing a wide array of tools. There’s also the likelihood of inaccurate data and reports: disconnected or duplicated data sources and ad-hoc storage systems often lead to inaccurate results and resident echo chambers. Many state and local governments do a great job leveraging proactive planning and consistent methods to curtail these kinds of issues, but often these investments are only applied to higher profile projects that are expected to garner higher levels of scrutiny.

To solve these information silos and disconnected resident experiences, forward thinking government agencies are setting their sights on a streamlined process and a centralized system of record to capture online, offline, synchronous, and asynchronous public engagement in one place.

To truly streamline the engagement process, state and local governments need to…

    • Coalesce around a single tool for staff to master all aspects of public engagement
    • Notify and engage residents consistently and throughout a project’s lifecycle
    • Centralize all participation data into one single source of record
    • Routinely document who in the community has been reached, and who may still be left out

Once implemented, a consistent engagement experience allows residents the ability to…

    • Search for relevant projects
    • Be notified about upcoming events and initiatives based on interests or location
    • Expect predictable, accessible opportunities to engage
    • Trust that their voice is being heard

On the administrative side, an integrated system of record for public engagement of all size and scope means Staff can…

    • Manage and store unlimited meetings and project participation data
    • Integrate surveys, email correspondence, meeting transcripts, and other formats for public engagement
    • Generate comprehensive presentation-ready engagement reports in real time
    • Ensure representative engagement and derive equity insights specific to your community


How Centralizing Data Informs Strategy and Benchmarks Equity Performance

Public Involvement Plans, like this one from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, dictate that trends in all elements of stakeholder engagement need to be analyzed to improve decision-making. The USDOT goes even further, saying that we must approach public involvement as an intentional, dynamic process that continues throughout all stages of product development, as opposed to a one-time event or a box to check in a project’s lifecycle.

At its core, community engagement guidance and best practice aims to capitalize on the value of aggregated data over time. Companies like Google and Facebook use a similar approach, when analyzing impact and developing strategy.

While a single project yields some insight into the decision making process, local governments are more effective when they can easily strategize and benchmark using information captured across projects, years, topics, and even methodologies.

Taking this type of centralized approach also supports local governments in increasing transparency and accountability for “…recording, measuring, and reporting on the effectiveness of public involvement activities and programs” (USDOT).

Even when participation data originates from a peer organization, such as a Council of Governments (COG), or a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), it is a valuable resource that should be captured and stored for future reference when initiatives change hands or move ahead. One of the primary drivers of conflict during project development for Departments of Transportation is the yearslong time gap between a project’s inception and the design phase, during which communication is infrequent and the reason for that project’s existence is often forgotten.

The use of “planning and environmental linkages” is a collaborative and integrated approach to transportation decision-making that is dependent on a central system of record.

Using a central system of record to incorporate community values into the decision-making process early and often, supports local governments by:

    • aligning efforts from residents and decision makers
    • preventing duplicative work
    • saving both time and money

To achieve this, organizations must integrate more than public comments, but also survey and meeting data collected throughout programming, planning, and development. Participants must be re-engaged throughout the project, and their feedback captured and reported on in a transparent and timely manner.


A Central System of Record for Governments

The PublicInput Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) database is a fully integrated system of record that helps to automate many of the steps in the engagement process.


Community engagement best practice: Using CRM to track participation overtime

Government agencies across North America trust PI’s CRM to record activities throughout the lifecycle of a project and create an archive of every public interaction.

Learn how the City of Rancho Cucamonga, CA implemented a comprehensive public affairs strategy using the PublicInput platform and CRM. 


See how Clark County, NV expanded their reach by seamlessly collecting segmented community data using the PublicInput platform and CRM. 

Want to learn more about how your community can adopt an organization-wide approach to centralizing public data?  Don’t let the opportunity for mission-critical equitable and representative decision making pass by.

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