Definition of citizen engagement 

Citizen engagement is the activity that facilitates the exchange of information between members of the public and policy makers.  This exchange includes both fact-based information as well as information about values, beliefs and perceptions.


Why is citizen engagement with the government important? 

Citizen engagement in public policy develops a more informed public who have the opportunity to meaningfully contribute and express their level of support for specific public policy issues and initiatives.

Citizen engagement allows local governments to better inform policy decisions and increase the quality and legitimacy of community outcomes by including the collective values, beliefs, and perceptions of the community.


Best examples of citizen engagement in local government 

The best examples of citizen engagement results in outcomes that help local governments:

–  Demonstrates transparency between government and members of the public.
–  Establishes a realistic view of existing conditions for the community.
–  Offers meaningful and significant opportunities for the community to provide input.

From cities to state departments of transportation, PublicInput customers vary in scope, but not in their intent to engage residents in a meaningful way.  Check out a few of our most highly engaged projects:

The City of Austin, TX Get’s Hyperlocal Transparency

American Planning Association Excellence award winner, the City of Austin, demonstrates the vital importance of equity in planning using a “hyperlocal” engagement approach in the PublicInput platform.  Read how the results of their effort created a blueprint to guide the growth of Austin’s park and recreation system for the next 10 years.

King County, Washington Increases Language Accessibility

King County, Washington used PublicInput to increase language accessibility targeted at the nearly 30% of residents who reported speaking a non-English language. See how the King County team used 10 language translations in PublicInput to meet the needs of a diverse population while informing a plan to protect public health.  

Hillsborough County, Florida Increases Reach among Rural and Urban Populations

Hillsborough County implemented a mixed-mode citizen engagement effort using PublicInput to collect input related to efforts to restore and reboot the local economic and community-based needs.  Learn more about how the Hillsborough County team collected input from over 17k community members in two weeks here.  


Difference between citizen engagement and participation 

Citizen engagement is typically initiated by local governments through strategic and tactical methods designed to encourage community contributions i.e. participation. Fostering collaborative partnerships in the community starts with the act of engagement.

Without the intentional tactics associated with engagement, the act of participation cannot occur.  With participation, only then can local governments build and maintain public trust and, ideally, make decisions that are reflective of community interests and needs.

The “how” (engage) and the “what” (participate) of community collaboration is often used interchangeably, but planning for local government citizen engagement requires separate considerations.

Effective Citizen Engagement Planning

Best practice for effective citizen engagement planning include:

–  Define the community or target population
–  Develop context (learn from the past, understand relationships, stakeholders etc.)
–  Evaluate the capacity the organization, partners, and the community to assist

Award winning municipality, Virginia Beach, modeled effective engagement using the best practices described above. Read about Virginia Beach’s results here.   

Accessible Participation Planning

Best practice for accessible participation planning include:

–  Plan and provide opportunities for citizens to observe and bear witness to the process
–  Develop ways for citizens to inspect, access, and review records and materials
–  Make it easy for citizens to lend their voice and contribute to the conversation

Harris County, TX Flood Control District used virtual engagement tactics to increase accessibility and participation.  See the results of their efforts here. 


How to engage more citizens as a local government official 

Engaging citizens requires a wide range of formats to reach diverse audiences and representative participation.   Local government officials must therefore use citizen engagement approaches that reduce limitations based on geographic location, work schedule, or even access to the internet.

PublicInput believes that equitable engagement requires a foundation in measurable metrics, and a wide range of communication tactics both online and off. The PublicInput platform offers a variety of tools and tactics to help local governments engage more citizens including:

–  Online public engagement portals for residents to find projects, meetings, and information (see one live HERE)
–  Survey and interactive mapping tools
–  Synchronized project email inboxes and voicemail hotlines
–  Text message and email notifications
–  Social media comment capture and targeted promotion
–  Automated and customizable translation tools
–  A census-integrated reporting and analysis suite

When done well, successful citizen engagement results in the public’s ownership of outcomes, reflection of community values, efficient project delivery, and increased credibility.


A Fully Integrated Citizen Engagement Solution 

The PublicInput platform is the only fully integrated engagement solution that simplifies the public engagement process. Providing the smart technology local governments need to launch concentrated engagement strategies.

With PublicInput, local governments can listen, communicate, build momentum, collaborate (both virtually and in-person), and close the feedback loop with citizens.  Find out how your community can benefit today!

Engage using standard survey question formats that you’re used to with consumer survey tools. From the single and multi-select, to Likert, slider, and text input formats, you’ve got the basics covered.