Speak up Fayetteville: Fayetteville’s New Public Engagement Portal Has Plenty to Talk About

Speak Up Fayetteville, the dedicated public engagement site for the City of Fayetteville, Arkansas, keeps the community coming back for more as a one-stop hub for a growing array of projects and involvement opportunities. Linda Deberry, Communications Program Manager, reveals that a centralized engagement tool, a strategic overlapping of projects timed to cross-pollinate participation, and an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ internal approach contributed to its success.

Aligning online and offline conversations to create consistent experiences and reach more people, the initiative enabled participants who could not attend face-to-face events to have their say across major initiatives and also allowed those who did attend to participate in follow up conversations.

How did Fayetteville address its changing community engagement needs?

Fayetteville is a growing city and home to a population with a history of engagement. Fayetteville has a variety of ongoing and upcoming infrastructure and community projects that prompted its move toward Engagement HQ.

Until now, online surveys have been a regular feature of community engagement, but accessibility has been limited as the community could previously only access these surveys through links sent out via social media, direct emails or by navigating the City’s website. With a number of major projects due for public input, the City spotted the potential of a centralized, more accessible way to bring the community into the conversation.

The initial success of Wikimaps for a multi-modal mobility project suggested that a limited, place-based engagement tool would be enough. When it came to the multi-million dollar bond projects around infrastructure, parks, stormwater management, public safety, and the arts, it became clear that a broader tool selection would be necessary to address the varying and substantial engagement needs of each initiative. The City needed a platform with the versatility to speak to these needs. Launched in August 2018, Speak Up Fayetteville saw 60% of its visitors download information about the projects under discussion while 21% weighed in with input–all in the first month.

The community’s history of engagement seemed to indicate that a convenient one-stop platform would be received positively; this was confirmed by the responses to the initial projects.

How is Speak Up Fayetteville enabling a greater range of feedback from the community?

Speak Up Fayetteville’s launch tied in with the rollout of a widely publicized engagement for an arts initiative, followed by a similar run with a transportation project. The events and site were promoted across traditional and new media channels, events, venues, and direct mail to the community. As expected, this was received with enthusiasm.

People who came to the site to take part in a particular project’s survey would remain to explore or engage with other projects. Taking this cross-pollination into account, the project life-cycles on Speak Up Fayetteville overlapped so that as each project wound down, another went online.

With such a variety of projects and the convenience of a centralized platform where fresh and further opportunities for involvement were just a click away, the community kept coming back for more. This strategy was enabled by a collaborative effort across departments, involving the Mayor’s office, Communications, Transportation, Water and Sewage, Parks and Recreation, Planning and Development, and Engineering.

The timing and number of engagement opportunities at launch played a key role in the success of Speak Up Fayetteville. The overlapping projects draw a diverse range of participants with interests in the multiple domains and issues at hand. These diverse audiences bring a variety of unique perspectives to the table and are individuals are excited to explore more due to the variety of tools provided by the site. Participants also tend to weigh in on the issues under discussion with varying levels of interest and intensity, bringing an added level of dimension to the feedback. This cross-pollinating effect and the convenience of the site create suitable conditions for a wider range of feedback from the community.

Rich media and collaborative problem-solving

Engaging online brought new capabilities to how issues could be presented, addressed, and unpacked. For instance, the team used video to illustrate the potential scope and impact of the revival of a local thoroughfare as a major route through the city. The video captured the areas and issues at stake in the transportation corridor plan. Fayetteville’s use of the Places tool brought community knowledge on drainage issues to stormwater management authorities, combining existing GIS information with community contributions to plug gaps with significant implications for related projects. The Ideas tool saw a variety of suggestions for the parks authorities and revealed recurring community priorities.
EngagementHQ provided hands-on support to the team.

“The support offered is tremendous. Anytime we have a question or don’t know how to do something in EHQ, your support team is right on the spot. They are so helpful and so quick that we have never felt frustrated.” – Linda Deberry, City of Fayetteville, Arkansas

To learn more about Fayetteville’s strategies for online community engagement, tune into our podcast.

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