Category Archives: Uncategorized

Local App Initiatives

Local governments are trying to reach their audiences where they are- their phones. With current trends in smart phones, internet access, and mobile app production they are finding it’s an easy tool to connect to their citizens, and often one that helps put information at the constituent’s fingertips.

This is no different than my own community of Greenville County, South Carolina. We have not only developed apps for tourism, trolley and bus services, and even apps for the school system but also to increase public engagement through the county’s 311 mobile app.

Image result for greenville county 311 app

Above is the webpage highlighting Greenville County’s 311 app. Essentially, it links resources to citizens through a mobile app. It allows them to see where different service centers are and track any public reporting- from street improvements to animal control or a certain noise or sight you may witness in your neighborhood.

What the website doesn’t cover is it’s partnership with United Way in resource referral. They also refer and promote the app as a means for folks to get assistance with any need- housing, food insecurity, education, employment. etc.

It serves as a great resource for the community and is definitely a step forward in the right direction for the county to reach people better.


Getting to know Charlotte, NC

A shining example of how to build community relationships, the City of Charlotte, NC holds periodic informal open meet & greets. The invitation is extended to all residents. Targeted demographic groups include those who may be perceived as racially, ethnically, economically, geographically, politically or generationally different. The purpose of the open forum is to bridge trust gaps and open lines of communication and understanding. Topics of conversation revolve around schools, budgets, religion, basic human rights and of course community relations.


For more information, please visit: Community Relations

Oracle’s Government 360: Amplifying Democracy Through Technology

Citizens are growing to expect 24/7 availability, cross-platform integration, multiple communication channels and an immediate response. Government leaders know they can no longer rely on traditional methods of conducting business.

Governments and nonprofits are using technology to give information to the people. Imagine if a phone app could work both ways: you give your municipal agency information and they immediately do something about it!

Government 360 is a strategy for ongoing government modernization. It encompasses a modern, secure infrastructure and widespread automation and mobility in alignment with government policy. Government 360 provides always-on availability through multiple channels, and data-driven insights gathered via machine learning and predictive analytics. These digital touchpoints can create a circle of citizen engagement, constituent service, private business productivity and civic mission.

The City of San Jose has a goal of becoming America’s MOST Innovative City by 2020 & they are well on their way to leading the country in innovation with the My San Jose (online or app) which allows residents to submit  service requests for abandoned vehicles, responding to illegal dumping, fixing potholes, repairing street lights and cleaning up graffiti. The requests are then sent directly to the work crews in charge of responding & has real-time tracking so that residents can see the progress of their requests. The App also allows citizens to upload GPS-tagged pictures of incidents as part of the service request; requests can now be handled within the hour in some instances. (nearest work crew assigned)

The app includes a feature that allows residents to input their address to receive personalized neighborhood service information like street sweeping, waste collection and water service providers called My Home Services.

Government 360 allows people to engage the city by phone, online — by chat and by app!

AND the app comes in the three predominant languages in San Jose: English, Spanish, and Vietnamese!

Additional information can be found here:

Ideas for Community Engagement in Public Safety

At our department, community engagement is a big deal. In the past 5 years, we have hired a full time life safety educator. This has allowed us to reach subgroups of our town we never have before. We have a variety of activities, such as a week long summer camp for 4th-7th graders, hosting birthday parties, reading to kids at public libraries, fire safety programs for new and existing restaurants, coloring contests for fire and EMS week, clown and puppet shows, a chili cook-off, and our daily station tours. This exposure and involvement within our community has improved relationships and led to better and safer neighborhoods. The link below is a story outlining other ways public safety professional can engage.



COPS Article

Next Door App for Public Safety Agencies

While many social networks exist, only one has can provide the features needed to meet the strategic goals of our plan- Nextdoor. Nextdoor is currently being used by over 2,800 public safety agencies in the United States to build stronger and safer communities. This is the only app that allows the user to set the boundaries of who is allowed in the network. Additionally, it allows public safety agencies to geotarget posts so the information can be given directly to the people that need it. This technology has the ability to poll residents and gain direct access to what the needs of the people are.

Nextdoor App

Twitter as a Community Engagement Tool

This article  is a little dated, but it’s a really good overview of using twitter as an engagement tool:
I especially agree with the recommendation to stay positive and be nice. You may still get some negative feedback, but it is less likely if you stay positive. The tone that you set usually shapes the responses. I also find that a little humor helps, and for some reason this seems to be easier on twitter than in email.
Here are some other suggestions:
  • Gifs can help, but don’t overuse them.
  • Pictures and videos prompt the most interaction. However, videos need to be short.
  • There are some tools that help you schedule posts (e.g. Hootsuite). I wish twitter offered this as a feature, too. Scheduling posts is helpful to public service organizations that want to share information, such as an announcement. You could schedule an announcement to run every 30 minutes or every hour to maximize the number of people who will see it.
  • Think through how to engage the trolls. You can ignore them, or you can engage them. If you engage them, it is best not to try to change their mind with facts or reason. Those who have changed their minds (or admitted changing their minds) from an exchange on Twitter are few and far between.

The community engagement principle that stands the test of time

Social media is the way of the future, they said.

There is no credibility without a website, they said.

Nonprofits must seek online donors in the information age, they said.

It turns out, “they” might not be right.

I recently conducted a (brief) search on how nonprofits can improve community engagement. I was fully expecting to find all the above ideas as the top hits: improve community engagement through Twitter. Through Instagram. Through new interactive online platforms.

Surprisingly, these technology-based ideas showed up exactly once out of about twenty-five recommendations, and even then, it was sandwiched between more traditional forms of communication: “Writing your own blog posts, articles, newspaper editorials, and such is effective for a number of reasons.”[1] When social media was mentioned, it was in a distinctly secondary way, as in this claim: “And while social media such as Facebook and Twitter make it easy to meet people online, there is nothing like slow, meaningful live conversation to make a real difference to your organization.”[2]

Other ideas that cropped up in much more positive tones included boring old traditional ideas, such as participating in local events, partnering in the community, and using an organization’s own space to host events.[3] Articles also emphasized the need to communicate effectively, through telling stories (in a variety of formats and to various audiences), through powerful data, through publications, through public speaking, and through one-on-one conversations.[4] None of these rely on flashy, up-and-coming technological tools for their success.

Still, there is certainly room for innovation in the technological market, and there are plenty of resources (mostly for purchase) that allow nonprofits to “maximize their presence” in an online world. However shiny and appealing these ideas seem, however, it seems that some community engagement strategies simply don’t get old. It turns out, to engage the community, nonprofit leaders just need to be in the community. And to engage, they still benefit from looking at people eye to eye and speaking to them face to face.





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