What’s the secret to Let’s Talk Parker’s exceptional response from the community?
“EngagementHQ has been a hit in our community, helping to turn innovative ideas into reality!” – Dannette Robberson, Town of Parker, Colorado
In the first six months following the launch of Let’s Talk Parker, the town’s new online engagement portal, local residents have weighed in on 11 projects, 1082 surveys, and 320 quick polls. The community has drawn up 68 big ideas for the town’s future, submitted 736 responses on growth and investment in downtown Parker, and pinned 459 markers on a virtual map to identify traffic and enforcement issues for local police.
Community response to the launch of Let’s Talk Parker has surpassed expectations with nearly 20% of local residents having visited the engagement portal since it went live in February 2018. This followed a creative marketing campaign suggesting a heart-to-heart between Town and citizens.
Dannette Robberson, Assistant to the Town Administrator, reveals how EngagementHQ unlocked the creative potential of a passionate community, supported by effective communications and marketing, internal buy-in, collaboration and leadership.
Why did Parker turn to online community engagement?
There are two converging factors that led to the Town Council taking the conversation online.
The first factor was the strongly positive community response to the prospect of online engagement. The 2017 Parker Citizen Survey asked the community what they felt about various additional ways that the Town could engage and inform residents. These options included virtual town hall meetings, open houses, project information on social media, live streaming of planning commission meetings, and online feedback on initiatives and projects. On the whole, over 90% responded that they would either be likely or somewhat likely to use the online feedback option.
The second factor was how online engagement lined up with the Council’s strategic goal on fostering community creativity and engagement. In addition, responses at public hearings on development prompted the Council to consider the voices that were missing from these face-to-face discussions, and find ways to get more voices to join the conversation. With a vibrant culture of community engagement already in place, the Council saw online engagement as the next step to extend participation and bring new dimensions to existing processes.
How did internal buy-in and collaboration across departments strengthen engagement?
At the onset, a selection committee made up of representatives from each department within the organization identified specific selection criteria and used a ranking system to choose the firm that would help Parker expand participation into the online engagement space.
Representation and buy-in from across departments was a vital component of the journey into online engagement. The Parker team recognized the potential of online engagement for every department, including and not limited to public works, parks and recreation, and community development, and called on the executive management team and department directors to identify champions for the project from within their departments. By building involvement across departments and groups early into the project, the team anticipated and fostered a high rate of adoption and internal collaboration.
The collaboration in Parker’s employee culture infused the project with talent from across ranks and departments. This diversity brought a range of projects to the site from communications, the police department, community development, the urban renewal authority, and the cultural department. This variety of opportunities for public input has contributed to drawing visitors to the site. Participants visiting the site for a particular project could browse through the array of other projects featured, and grow their engagement.
Town Manager Michelle Kivela was instrumental in enabling Parker’s online engagement journey. The openness across leadership levels in the organization began with Kivela’s willingness to try new things and empower her staff.
How has Let’s Talk Parker transformed the conversation about local needs and priorities?
One of the highlighted successes on the site, My Mainstreet, is a community conversation to help define the shape of growth and investment in downtown Parker. Its objective is to help P3 (Partnering for Parker’s Progress), the Town’s urban renewal authority, to work with local residents, private developers, and the business community to find out what the community wants and what the private market can support.
Touching on priorities that may not always align, this issue can provoke passionate opinions on both sides. The site has brought about a sense of balance between extremes of opinion on either end of the spectrum and marked a noticeable shift in the tone of the conversation about issues replicated on social media. Some have even called out inaccurate information circulating on social media and have directed people to the facts and conversation on Let’s Talk Parker.
The City of Parker closes the feedback loop by sharing accomplishments from it’s first 6 months of online engagement
Let’s Talk Parker can look forward to premiering EngagementHQ’s budget allocator tool for a Parks and Recreation playground equipment project. Robberson is excited that the Town will be among one of the first in the US to use this participatory budgeting tool. She looks forward to increased community interest and sees this as an educational opportunity within both the organization and the community.
What advice does the Town of Parker have for anyone considering or beginning their journey in online engagement? And what role did communications and marketing play in activating engagement on the site? To find out more on how can engagement planners flip the conversation to encourage the flow of ideas from the community tune into the Town of Parker podcast.
You can learn more about how the Parker Police Department uses EngagementHQ to solve problems and build active partnerships.