How to Promote Citizen Engagement and Participation

Citizens are more motivated than ever to participate in their governments. Over the past two years, people have seen just how much impact policy decisions can make in their day-to-day lives–not just on a national level, but on a local level, too. Times of an unprecedented public health crisis, the looming prospect of a climate crisis that has already affected millions of people’s lives, and many other issues have spurred citizens to action that now extends far beyond the voting booth. The public is engaged!

That’s why it’s more important than ever to remove barriers to citizen engagement and participation, especially in local governments.

What Is Citizen Engagement and Participation?

There are a variety of ways citizens can participate and be engaged in their local governments beyond just voting in every election. It might take the form of:

  • Participating in neighborhood cleanups or planting public gardens
  • Helping out with a local charity
  • Starting or assisting with new city-level initiatives
  • Attending school board or city government meetings, sometimes with unpredictable results

All of these opportunities for participation have one commonality, though: they emerge from a sense of belonging to and being involved in a community. The more a citizen is aware of belonging to a community in which everyone should help one another for the good of all, the more likely that citizen is to be highly engaged and willing to participate not just in local government, but also in other activities that benefit the community.

How Can Local Governments Promote Civic Engagement?

Promoting citizen engagement is in any local government’s best interest. The most effective governance involves the community as a whole, and when people feel they have agency in their local governments, their trust and approval increase. Not to mention the fact that initiatives are much easier to get off the ground when citizens are willing to be involved and help out however they can. Here are a few ways local governments can promote meaningful citizen engagement:

Showcase the good work of exemplary citizens

It is inspiring to see other citizens doing good work in the community. It’s also a good feeling to be duly recognized for the work being put into one’s city. So, one of the simplest ways for governments to promote citizen engagement is to make sure to recognize the good works of citizens, volunteer groups, and other people making a positive impact on the community. Share photos and descriptions of this kind of work on municipal social media accounts, give recognition or awards, or host an annual volunteer banquet.

Promote opportunities for community participation

Sometimes, the only thing preventing citizens from participating more in their communities and local governments is simply not knowing what opportunities are out there! Local governments can remedy this by promoting these opportunities on social media channels, creating a calendar on municipal websites, or even putting together a monthly newsletter of upcoming opportunities for citizen participation. Be sure to include city and school board meetings open to the public!

Have the right meeting management software

Meeting management software for local governments is more than just a tool for streamlining the administrative process surrounding meetings; it’s also a technology that can maximize citizen engagement in their communities. With a tool like eScribe, municipal governments can promote impactful citizen engagement by utilizing modules like webcasting, sharing participation in hybrid meetings, public comments, allowing public speakers at meetings, and more!

Citizen Engagement Is the Future

Citizens are becoming more and more engaged in their local governments and broader communities, and this can reasonably be expected to continue. We are living in a world whose uncertainties and recent events have spurred citizens to action. The only way we can face many of the most pressing issues of our time is together. So, make sure your city is providing every avenue for effective citizen participation and engagement. Together, communities can accomplish anything.

About the Author:

Paul Mackin is Vice President and a Co-Founder of eScribe Software Ltd.