Imagine if your citizen engagement improved 200% in one year. San Antonio’s innovative approach to citizen engagement was just one of many at the Alliance for Innovation’s Transforming Local Government Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota. This annual conference attracts local leaders from around the country who want to learn about how other communities are innovating to improve community services.
One of the sessions stood out for its unique presentation style and innovative program. A team of local government employees from San Antonio, Texas, used an interactive presentation model during their session to explain how they used an online campaign, SASpeakUp, to engage citizens in their budget proposal. The interactive presentation setup five stations for small groups of attendees to hear about the SpeakUp campaign in further detail. I will use the same strategy in my post:
Jose De La Cruz (Office of Innovation)
The first part of this campaign was to develop a wide range of tools to help start a conversation on what residents think about city services and connect that to the budget. The first step was to publish an online video from city staff explaining why they love providing services. The next step was then to engage citizens through social media and the SASpeakup website. One method was to have citizens explain on a video why they loved a certain city service and then to share the video.
Megan Dodge (Government & Public Affairs)
MEET UP! JOIN UP!
Being aware that all residents might not go to their social media pages or website to engage, San Antonio decided to go where the citizens are. These “MeetUps” would take place at local events, like farmers markets, where city staff would distribute and collect citizen surveys asking about city services. They also held multiple open houses and would live stream these sessions over the Internet.
Balancing Act Tool
One of the more innovative online engagement tools the city used was the Balancing Act Tool. This software was created to solicit budget feedback online. The user opens the tool in a web browser to see how money is being budgeted. The user can then cut, for example, the fire department’s budget, but then will have to make a decision to cut taxes or add the extra funds to another department. They can then send their edited budgets to city staff for consideration.
Tyler Bahr (Office of Innovation)
The one thing staff was very conscious of was establishing and maintaining a solid brand presence. The three things they always considered in developing this program were:
1.) Know your target audience
2.) Know your message
3.) Know your end goals.
This helped staff develop a consistent and relevant brand.
MATERIALS AND SELFIE STATION
To ensure the city could get the word out about the campaign to its citizens, staff used multiple marketing techniques. They distributed small push cards with information on how to get involved, set up selfie stations at community events, developed a brief feedback survey and published ads in the newspaper.
If you’d like additional information about the SpeakUp campaign, you can download all the session documents here.