How to Use This Guide

Now more than ever, cities are working to get data and information in the hands of residents to help them stay informed and make decisions, frequently in the form of open data, performance indicators, and strategic plans. Residents can interact with the data to understand progress in priority areas, analyze data, and create tools of their own. Government data affects and informs a large variety of stakeholders but is often requested, accessed, and used by a small core community of people. How can a city move past the “usual suspects” and ensure the data it shares reaches everyone who may be interested?

Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Government Excellence (GovEx) recommends three steps and the following chapters of this guide are structured to support these recommendations.

  1. Identify a goal. The following chapters outline a series of high-level goals that cities may wish to achieve by engaging their community stakeholders. Cities may be focused on achieving one or many of these goals.
  2. Understand your environment. Each chapter includes a series of questions related to that goal that assist with understanding a city’s environment. The chapters also include specific case studies that illustrate how other cities have addressed these goals.
  3. Choose your tools. Tools to support community engagement for the relevant goal are noted within each chapter. Chapter 6: Toolkits, a comprehensive toolkit, includes the tools identified in each chapter, as well as additional tools that may be valuable.

This guide is intended to provide questions, examples, and tools that can inspire meaningful engagements with city stakeholders.

Questions to Consider (courtesy of Laurenellen McCann)

  • How are you creating opportunities for engagement?
  • How and how often are you letting your community know they can interact with your city’s data?
  • What rewards are you offering for engagement? Would you act on those rewards?
  • How are you thanking and acknowledging people for their engagement? Is this focused on one type of engagement or distributed across the various ways people can engage?
  • How does community engagement actually influence the work you do?
  • Where can community members see their engagement mattering/influencing your work?

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