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Research shows that there is tremendous value to be gained when cities take the time and effort to engage their citizens. A study published in 2017 found that the act of engaging residents can lead to “enhanced transparency, learning, shared ownership, cost- and time-saving(s), and greater long-term success,” and it can generate new and creative solutions to meet the needs of citizens more effectively. 

Many cities struggle with engaging citizens beyond town halls and one-time volunteer opportunities, even when they know the benefits.  

Based on a decade of experience working with hundreds of city leaders to better engage their citizens, we have created a series of citizen engagement techniques specifically for use by cities. Each citizen engagement technique can be used to create new city services and initiatives, or improve existing ones. They can be used individually or be combined with other citizen engagement techniques. The engagement can take place online, in-person, or both, in the span of a few hours or over the course of multiple months. 

The citizen engagement techniques are separated into three categories:

  • Discover: Engage citizens in collecting firsthand information about a particular service. 
  • Analyze: Involve citizens in processing previously gathered input to identify relevant themes and possible solutions.
  • Create: Include citizens in implementing changes to existing services or creating new ones, based on previously analyzed citizen input. 

Prior to implementing any engagement technique, please read our Before You Begin Checklist to set goals and expectations, identify stakeholders, and more.