The Importance of Civic Engagement Now More Than Ever

According to the National Research Center (NRC), data collected by the National Community Survey over the last 15 years shows that nearly 80% of residents expect their governments to provide opportunities for community engagement. But with most government offices closed and employees working from home due to the spread of COVID-19 and the adoption of social distancing guidelines, attending a board meeting or town hall is virtually impossible. The timing couldn’t be worse either since civic engagement is now more crucial than ever. As Senior Vice President of Innovation at Polco, Michelle Kobayashi, tells the NRC: “finding ways to connect with people when they are socially isolated…gives people a sense of empowerment…a sense of things they can do to make them feel like they have some control over the situation.”

Luckily, 90% of American adults are active online and the amount of public sector organizations using online tools to gather feedback is on the rise. Deciphering public opinions gathered with some online tools (social media outlets for example) can feel like hiking through waste deep snow in a blizzard due the rapid fire, real-time way this info is compiled, yet there are plenty of free or reasonably priced web-based platforms out there for local governments to engage with communities and foster a sense of transparency, empowerment, and convenience.

Whether we like it or not, COVID-19 has delivered a serious blow to humanity’s sense of normalcy the world over and sent us all reeling into the start of this current decade. While civic engagement is generally taken for granted, Polco Vice President of National Engagement, Matt Fulton, rightly states that “residents need to have an effective way to provide input on the personal and economic challenges they are facing.” It has never been more obvious that the time is ripe for every level of government to work together with the communities they serve to implement a 21st century solution to this understated problem. The good news is, though, that with the kind of technology currently available, we are well-poised to come out on top—we just have to stick to together. So remember to stay safe and stay engaged, especially right now.

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