It’s a new world — a digital world. The days of public hearings and physical petitions being submitted to demonstrate the general public’s concerns are rapidly fading, being replaced by new citizen engagement tools.
The increasingly widespread use of social media provides governments with a compelling opportunity for building community with its constituents, although there’s much more work involved than just creating a Facebook page or a Twitter account and posting something to it occasionally. The effort pays off, though, and progressive governments nationwide are using social media outlets to enlist their citizens in a collective journey toward good government.
The following is a sample of how digital government is quickly becoming embedded in the new DNA of democracy:
• In 2012, the Mejorando Group while working with the City of Bismarck, North Dakota actively utilized various social media channels to collaborate with community members during the development of the City’s inaugural Strategic Plan.
• Facebook has created civic engagement tools
• Read about two-way engagement in the City of Elk Grove, CA
• In the Town of Gilbert, Arizona leaders have adopted their own Digital Road Map
• In his new book “Citizenville,” California Lt. Governor, Gavin Newsom explores how everyday citizens can influence their governments through technology.
• Through the web, social media and mobile apps residents of Mesa, Arizona have opportunities at their fingertips to share ideas and solutions. Through iMesa (AZ), residents submit vote and comment on ideas that transform the community.
• More and more, elected officials are using Twitter to sustain “e-lationships” with constituents.
• The County of San Mateo, California is actively using MindMixer http://www.mindmixer.com/blog/online-engagement-helps-delegate-sales-tax-dollars-in-san-mateo-county
• Mobile apps. It has become trendy for governments at all levels to have their mobile app. Read about Fairfax County Virginia and the clever ways they’re using a mobile app for emergency preparedness.
Urban or rural, small to large it doesn’t matter where you’re located or the size of your jurisdiction, digital technology is transforming how governments sustain their role as community builders. Those whose leaders are early adopters and embrace these new tools are on the bleeding-edge on the most effective ways to build community while others are waiting for a series of “best practices” to arrive on the scene allowing them to simply cut-n-paste. Wrong! Fortunately, there’s no “best practices” in this field so leaders are pushed to experiment, to try it out, see how it works and not be paralyzed by the desire to make it perfect. Those leaders who think for some reason digital technology is anomaly I strongly encourage them to reconsider, lest they become marginalized and irrelevant. To the rest, may the force be with you!
To learn more about the rapidly growing role digital government is playing, read the article Patrick co-authored “Digital Government: Creating the Social Media Game Plan”