‘A Culture that Tries’: Community Engagement Enacts Commitment of High-Performance Government
In a recent podcast with Bang the Table, Cartegraph’s Nick Kittle affirms that “It’s the role of government to do what we cannot or should not do alone.” This underlining of core democratic values speaks to both an internal and external vision towards the achievement of civic goals for government organizations and the public. What could this mean for government organizations looking to better serve their communities? And how can government organizations engage better towards these ends?
The concept of High-Performance Government is a commitment towards bringing greater positive impact through sustainable innovation for improved governance. It is built on the following five tenets:
- Building effective and innovative teams
- Building efficient processes
- Creating measurable, actionable results
- Doing this in a way that’s clear and accountable to our residents
- Engaging our community
These tenets enable what Kittle describes as a ‘culture that tries’, where organizations cultural shift is further reflected in robust and impactful connect with community.
Beyond the suggestion box
In times of eroded trust in government and a multitude of challenges facing decision-makers, community engagement remains as important to informing better decisions as it does to fostering government-community-stakeholder relationships. Community engagement is vital to creating the clarity that is necessary for government organizations to respond to challenges, communicate with, and demonstrate the enacting of shared goals to the public. This demands good storytelling, Kittle points out, and not least, the need to find the right ways to engage the community and close the loop.
It is of crucial importance that government organizations take the necessary steps to steer clear of tokenistic or incomplete community engagement. For instance, community surveys without follow-ups to illustrate outcomes, or input processes on decisions that have already been made can do little to strengthen relationships, nurture trust, or inform better policy.
Many of these misfires come from a mindset that looks to the default of the suggestion box and its variants, suggests Kittle. Whatever form this default may take, if the feedback loop is overlooked or underserved then the community cannot know what has happened with their input. To ask for ideas with no clearly defined intention or thorough process for following up on it is counter-intuitive to the purpose of community engagement itself.
At its most basic, community engagement is about creating and sustaining effective communication with community. It is about being heard, and being listened to. In addition to taking government organizations out to the community and bringing the community’s needs to decision-makers, impactful community engagement should be able to illustrate to the community how their input may travel through the issues or decisions at hand.
With a significant proportion of communities now connected through mobiles and online devices, it follows naturally that opportunities for community engagement should account for this. Online community engagement holds media-rich possibilities for making participation more innovative and interactive and lends itself to being easily and comprehensively measurable. For instance, explore how the City of Longmont sets out its engagement processes, projects, and goals to close the loop on progress and outcomes.
As both a cornerstone and product of high-performance government, successful, sustainable, and innovative community engagement speaks to an organization-wide commitment to its values.
Creating a ‘culture that tries’
Kittle notes that government organizations may often carry intentions but lack the skills and tools to effect change. The tenets of high-performance government seek to create organization-wide change by embedding themselves into and thereby transforming organizational cultural thinking. This begins with equipping the individual to be responsible for creating and demonstrating this shift, holding themselves accountable towards these goals and believing in the need for betterment.
This development of a culture of, for instance, greater accountability and better design thinking can then travel, be recognized and replicated to permeate the fabric of the organization. By beginning to make meaningful differences, individuals can activate a cultural shift and motivate organization-wide adoption. By committing to a new approach, tracking and communicating the results, and iterating towards better outcomes, individuals can bring new learnings and scale these ways.
Entrenching the characteristics of high-performance government in an organization can be kickstarted with what Kittle describes as a coalition of the willing: people who wish to see change. Enabled with skills and tools to build a culture of accountability, such a group can create the results and the momentum necessary to get more people on board for positive cultural change.
Some of the objections that crop up in response to the need for change tend to be time and resources. But these constraints, Kittle points out, may indeed be addressed by a transformation towards high-performance government. For instance, time and resources may be wasted on meetings or projects that do not speak to the priorities of the organization or its community. This can be tackled with skills for time management, project prioritization, and productivity so that time and resources can be better deployed.
As with community engagement, organizational cultural change benefits from closing the loop, which Cartegraph builds into the journey towards change for its customers.
Tune in to learn more about how community engagement and high-performance government can win together.