Incorporating both “high-tech” and “high-touch” elements into public engagement strategies enables governments and government organizations to provide a high level of service to diverse audiences, and recent technological advancements are making it easier than ever to use this method of public engagement.
The Town of Smyrna’s August 2012 Design Week, is a good example of an integrated approach to to public engagement. Planners gathered data, made forecasts, and promoted early input with traditional PR, flyers, and online publicity. Next, online surveys and stakeholder interviews collected citizen input on a new community vision statement and proposal revisions. Finally, during the five-day charrette, residents and planners collaborated, discussed pros and cons, identified potential solutions, and finalized the plan.
DART First State uses high-tech and high-touch methods to connect with the citizens who depend on their services. DART’s webpage uses photo headers that link to Google Transit Maps of routes, virtual tours of DART sites and vehicles, and how-to videos. Citizens can stay connected to vital information by using social media, subscribing to the site’s RSS feed, or registering for text message alerts. These measures are all in addition to in-person bus rider surveys, public hearings and workshops held at locations across the state.
SeaGrant Delaware is another local example of an organization that has seen the success of an integrated approach to public engagement. Its website hosts many outreach features including an events calendar, event registration, online newsletter, PDFs of reports, and a news archive. To engage with residents on an interpersonal basis, communities receive workshops and training on land use and community planning specific to the needs of coastal environments. SeaGrant also uses its annual Coast Day event to engage and educate the community. Coast Day showcases the work of scientists studying Delaware’s marine environment, and offers attendees of all ages’ fun, educational marine-related activities. Coast Day’s storify page extends the event’s outreach potential by documenting the even for those unable to attend.
Combining “high-tech” and “high-touch” elements expands the reach of public engagement initiatives, linking communities to the organizations that serve them.