APA Day 1 Review: Critical Tips and Q&A for Government Planners

APA-Hits-LASaturday, April 14th, was the first day of sessions at the APA.  Anyone going through the conference program will notice the immensity of this convening leaving no argument that “planners do it big!” Let’s see if someone makes a t-shirt out of that.

On day 1 alone, there was a whopping seventy-five sessions to choose from. The twitter feed was dishing out some positive feedback all day. So, doing the best we can here, Aileen Horgan attended one session and, as you will see from the summary below, that one session was THICK with great information.

Citizen Engagement, Outreach, and Technology

The nice Q&A section of the Citizen Engagement, Outreach, and Technology session was reflective of the need to engage with the audience… in the public sector’s case, that audience is comprised of the citizens.

The session was about using web tech to outreach to the community, experimenting, and having fun. Here are some of the more salient points of the session:

  • Traditional public meetings, while still effective to some degree, offer a lot of challenges, such as timing: citizens have different schedules that often do not afford their participation.
  • Use email to notify community members of changes to agendas and distribute newsletters – services like Mailchimp work well for this. Let them sign up for what they’re interested in – filter your subscribers metrics of opens and click-throughs for enhanced touch on the community pulse.
  • Use video to talk to citizens without Planning Dept. jargon.
  • In some cases there’s legislation requiring all media releases be sent to media outlets and bloggers.
  • Set up a blog! You can manage it and don’t have to rely on to IT Control your own message. Develop relationships with local blogging community. Set one on one meetings with the blogger community so that they’re telling their story, too .
  • About 1/2 of the departments in the sessions said they have a FaceBook page. NCPC set up their Twitter account last year. NCPC has struggled to get people to follow and participate using FaceBook – it’s more personal and planning isn’t a priority. Experience varies.
  • SMS/Texting works great for polling. Poll whenever and wherever you can. 75-85% of Americans use text messaging.
  • Create Idea Forums, they’re inexpensive and sometimes even free… or use the amazing Citizensourcing Ideation Software that is available.
  • www.ncpc.gov/memorials was integrated with Four Square – check in at memorials and made a leader board – gaming – didn’t take off as well as they hoped.

Here are some Q&A notes:

Q: How do you deal with your legal council in relation to these innovative tools?
A: Haven’t had to deal with this, actually…

Q: Your office of civic engagement is much bigger than ours, how much time does it take to do outreach, especially for a more limited staff?
A: Engage other staff members for some assistance – it can be fun! With twitter they can manage on behalf, doesn’t need to be restricted to PR/communication people.  Have rotation of social outreach, cross-team training; it’s everyone’s job.

Q: How do you deal with records retention specifically for idea forums?
A: Tech makes it much easier, it’s all available indefinitely, people are archiving their idea forum.

(Editor’s note: While this is a great idea for cheap solution there are many limitations to such forums, and it is recommended that you go with a service that guarantees backup, sizeable uptime, and reporting.)

Q: How do you monitor idea forums?
A: Notifications when people post.

Q: How do you notify citizens that these tools are out there?
A: Emails, public postings at events.

Q: Who are you reaching?
A: Younger community, inner-city. We weren’t seen as a partner but that’s changing. We’re hoping they now see us as a progressive organization. Also reaching broad swath of the community with email.

Q: Do you have a use policy?
A: Have a FaceBook policy that says what you can and cannot say. Civiccommons.org has templates for this.

Q: How do you validate geographic region and interest?
A: Identify your users as citizens during registration.

Four C’s: Coffee, Champagne, Citizensourcing, and SpeakUp℠

coffeecupDay one of free coffee over at Booth 436 (map below) went great. Tons of planners came over for a cupajoe (some even tweeted pictures of their Granicus cups) and to discuss the hot new trend of effective citizensourcing with other planners and our staff at our collaborative café. Seriously, who out there doesn’t want to know how to effectively and efficiently tap the brain-power of all your citizens? Eeyore?

At the end of the day, we turned the Collaborative Café into a hoppin’ little champagne bar for the welcome reception. After talking to so many awesome planners, we were ready to start it all up again. See you soon!

For pictures of the event, check out this facebook page!


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