Why is community engagement important?

citizen engagement

Today, the push for community engagement at a local level is constantly increasing, and yet the topic itself is often brought up under the assumption that the benefits of community engagement are already well-known. This can lead to cities trying to carry out community engagement programs without fully grasping their relevance, and as a result, only attempting to run the programs half-heartedly. Before implementing a citizen participation initiative, it is important to fully understand why you are working toward a higher level of community engagement and how your project goals may help your city in the long-run.

Citizen engagement the day after elections

An involved community is a healthy community – one in which it is easier to pass beneficiary legislation and provide access to resources that citizens value. Community engagement programs are steps toward the creation of strong, informed, and connected communities. One of the many ways in which community engagement can help revitalize a city is by reaching out to people that would otherwise not get involved on their own.

Though most of us would be able to identify voting as a generalized main source of citizen participation, there are several citizens for whom conventional voting is not a primary method of government involvement. Not only are non-citizens and those under the legal voting age barred from voting, but the fact is that solely voting for elected officials does not encompass every issue that citizens may need help with, meaning that traditional elections are an insufficient method of community engagement. But how exactly will community engagement initiatives benefit your city?

Online citizen engagement

Technology is a great ally that helps governments achieve higher participation rates with less effort. Digital consultations, online surveys or debates, e-voting, e-petitions and participatory budgets; they are just some of the options that public administrations have at their disposal to receive immediate and high quality feedback. Furthermore, today it is possible to reliably identify users and verify that they are residents of the municipality.

By implementing active community engagement initiatives in your city, you will be gaining the ability to accurately measure the public?s wishes, needs, and opinions. With a better understanding of what it is that residents truly want, the city can pour more focus and allocated funds into the projects that matter the most. Furthermore, if people are given the opportunity to have a say in government projects, they are less likely to be unsatisfied with the project outcomes.

How to measure the impact of citizen participation

Community engagement works as a way to establish trust within a municipality. When residents see their government actively seeking out citizen participation, they feel heard and understand that their voices matter. This mutual trust on behalf of elected officials and their constituents helps to bring down levels of political apathy, and in turn boosts community?s senses of political efficacy (an indicator used in political science to measure confidence levels of citizens). In other words, by asking your citizens to participate, you are letting them know that you are there for them.

As communities gain more trust in their elected officials, cities begin to prosper with the common support of both their government and of their citizens. Implementing a community engagement strategy in your city will have an advantageous effect not only on your citizens, but also on your government as well, for it will show that you respect and listen to those that elected you. If you need help to promote citizen participation in your municipality, you can contact us.