How to increase citizen participation with public hearings citizen engagement software

Once you have an online software in place that allows citizens to participate remotely and asynchronously in your public hearings, the next step is spreading awareness to citizens so they know about the new option.

Here are four communication tools used by the City of Lakewood:

1. Printed newsletter

Looking@Lakewood is a printed newsletter that is mailed to all residential and business addresses in Lakewood, typically six times a year. The newsletter providers Lakewood residents with information about their city government and when the City Council was ready to spread the news about the new online public hearing option, they included an article in this newsletter.

The article, Online participation to start for City Council meetings at LakewoodSpeaks.org, can be read on page 8 in the January 2019 issue (download PDF).

The article included the purpose of LakewoodSpeaks.org, how it works, the past success the Planning Commission found, and how to get started.  

2. Postcards

Postcards were printed to raise awareness of LakewoodSpeaks.org. The postcards were placed at public counters around the city and used as handouts at public meetings. City Council members were given stacks to hand out to constituents.

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3. Live announcements

In advance to the City Council going live, the mayor started a couple of meetings announcing that LakewoodSpeaks.org would be available for public comment from home, or wherever. Once the City Council actions were live on the site, at each meeting the mayor acknowledged the comments and at multiple points in the meeting stated that the site was available for public participation.

4. Mailers

A number of changes were made to the standard mailed notification that is sent to citizens for whom the actions on the upcoming public hearing are relevant. A notification explaining how LakewoodSpeaks.org works along with the URL and a QR code were added to the mailings to make it easy for citizens to get to the online public hearing site.

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