What can online community engagement do for the small city?

Planners, authorities, and decision-makers in small cities and regional centres have reimagined problem-solving for local issues by turning to the people at the very heart of their vision: the community. Town halls, forums, and face-to-face surveys have long remained a staple for citizen participation initiatives. However, as the scope and complexity of issues grow, as do populations and their needs, offline engagement can only do so much.

Even with relatively small populations, small cities and their regional equivalents continue to grapple with the basic challenges of reaching out and getting their communities involved. Online community engagement has revealed a whole new world of opportunities and tools for better, wider, and deeper conversations with communities large and small. Away from the noise and pitfalls of social media, dedicated online engagement spaces are allowing more people to have their say on the local issues and policies that matter to them.

Below are some great examples of smaller cities making a big impact with community engagement.

Moonee Valley:

Moonee Valley City Council

See how Moonee Valley City Council engaged with its community to help plan the future of Windy Hill, an iconic sport and recreation reserve in Essendon, Victoria. They asked participants to share what they love about the reserve, what they wanted to do there and what it needs in the future.

Byron Shire:

Byron Shire Council

Byron Shire Council set out to learn about how local footpaths, cycleways, and related facilities were working for the community, what was missing, and what needed to go into planning for upgrading this infrastructure to better serve the region.


Bayswater Participatory Budgeting

While looking for new and participatory ways to get people involved in the Business Plan and Budget process, Engage Bayswater invited their community to help inform the City’s annual operating budget for 2019/20. See how this well thought out process can and should be replicated by other Councils.

Boulder (and Austin):

cities of Boulder

The cities of Boulder, Colorado, and Austin, Texas utilized online community engagement to support policy-based community initiatives.  Hear the discussion around how effective engagement can bring about sweeping policy change, particularly at the local government level.


City of Kamloops

The City of Kamloops online engagement hub, Let’s Talk Kamloops, has seen over 21,000 visits and 6800 engaged, informed, and aware participants since its launch in mid-2018. Learn more about how Let’s Talk Kamloops helped the City revitalize and close the loop on community engagement communication.

Cambridge Shire:

Cambridge Shire Transport Planning

Consult Cambs, the online consultation hub for the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP), is thinking beyond the survey to add a whole new dimension to how community and stakeholders can set out ideas for their shared future. Find out how tapping into interactive, media-rich digital engagement facilitates deeper engagement and makes consultations more enjoyable – and valuable.  


City of Kingston

The City of Kingston’s new engagement hub, has seen 6000 registered participants tuning in to have their say on local projects and priorities. Learn more about how Kingston crafted a consistent and effective set of engagement strategies.


City of Casey

Commit to Casey spoke to the needs and aspirations of Victoria’s largest, most populous municipality and fastest-growing council. With almost 350,000 residents and a projected population of over 500,000 by 2041, Casey is no stranger to the opportunities and challenges that face growing communities. How did Casey measure the success of its historic campaign?


Speak Up Fayetteville

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.


Let’s Talk Parker

Community response to the launch of Let’s Talk Parker surpassed expectations after nearly 20% of local residents visited the engagement portal in the first 6 months of their launch. 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?

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