Inclusive Community Engagement that Reaches Rural & Urban Populations

Community Engagement Example: Hillsborough County, Florida

Hillsborough County is the fourth-largest county in Florida, including Tampa, and accounts for 14% of the state population.  With the mix of rural and urban populations that span the 1,266 square mile jurisdiction, Hillsborough County has a host of challenges associated with offering community engagement opportunities for the diverse communities located within its borders.

Hillsborough County Population

The Challenge of Reopening Hillsborough

In spring of 2021, the County began developing a plan to loosen restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.  With the planned return to pre-COVID levels of activity, the County identified the need to better understand community member perspectives around the reopening.  Acknowledging the potential for a host of challenges and concerns associated supporting the health and safety of the community amid the planned reopening, the County sought to collect input that would support efforts to restore and reboot the local economic and community-based needs.  

The community engagement challenge revolved around the need for an inclusive engagement effort that addressed the diverse needs and preferences of both rural and urban communities. Additionally, language accessibility was a high priority for the nearly 30% of Hillsborough County residents who reported “speaking a language other than English at home.” 

Inclusive Community Engagement Powered by PublicInput

In an effort to understand the perceived community priorities, Hillsborough County launched a survey campaign to initiate a community-wide conversation about economic efforts, public safety measures, and the general public opinion on topics ranging from employment, recreation, quality of life and business ownership. 

In order to maximize the diversity of responses, the County implemented a mixed-mode approach to the survey campaign.  This approach provided offerings in Spanish as well as used the PublicInput auto-translation services for other languages that were needed.  Community engagement efforts included: 

  • A multilingual online survey
  • SMS Text outreach in both English and Spanish
  • Assertive and strategic marketing efforts between the County and the local media outlets
Contact SMS Texting

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PublicInput SMS Text surveys are customizable with over 100 languages options available.

As part of their larger community engagement efforts, the County established an online Engagement & Education hub for public education, outreach, and listening efforts to help guide decision-makers when considering issues that impact the future of their community.

This self-service page functioned as one of the methods community members could learn and gain access to the Hillsborough County reopening project page, survey, and eventually the results of the initiative. 

The project survey collected demographic and geographic (zip code) information from participating community members to help provide insight to decision makers about the perceptions of those living in the County’s three cities and unincorporated areas.

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Equity Mapping allows project managers to see the populations they are reaching at a glance.

Using the PublicInput Comment Analysis, CRM and Dynamic Reporting features, the County was able to quickly and easily analyze over 17k survey submissions and 30k comments collected from Hillsborough community members.  

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The Engagement Hub comment analysis uses smart technology to automatically pull out sentiment (red/green = positive/negative) and common keywords found among comments.

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The CRM creates opportunities for strategic communication, outreach, and follow-up possible using the collected participant data.

In particular, the PublicInput dynamic reporting feature provided the County project team and decision-makers with an at-a-glance interactive view of the project’s associated participant data.

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PublicInput dynamic reporting creates an interactive and shareable reporting experience for project managers, decision makers, and stakeholders.

The Outcome

The Hillsborough County team heard from over 17k community members over a period of two weeks.  The impressive sample size was achieved using a strategic mixed-mode community engagement approach paired with an assertive marketing effort using local media and text messaging translated in both English and Spanish.  

The County was able to meet the challenge of deploying an inclusive community engagement strategy that took into consideration the geographic and demographic needs and preferences of the community and allowed: 

  • Decision-makers to quickly and easily pull real time reports illustrating community member needs and preferences.
  • County staff to quickly respond to public questions and concerns with appropriate resources.

With more than 4k subscribers added to the PublicInput CRM from the Reopening project, Hillsborough County is also well positioned for future outreach and communication efforts with the identified subset of engaged community members. 

Want to learn more about the PublicInput inclusive community engagement features? Book a tour today!

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