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Improved Communication Between City Officials and Residents in San Antonio, TX

San Antonio, TX, USA

At a Glance

The City of San Antonio was looking for ways in which its residents could meaningfully provide input on city programs and initiatives. The city developed SASpeakUp, a community engagement platform that offers many opportunities for residents to provide input on policies, programs and initiatives.

Problem Addressed

According to the Census Bureau in 2019, San Antonio was the second fastest-growing large city in the U.S with a population of over 1.5 million residents. Rapid growth means that the community’s needs and expectations are growing as well, and the local government needed to invest in new ways to best serve their residents. On top of that, the COVID-19 pandemic revealed many opportunities to improve digital access to local government services. Previously, siloed interactions between residents and government officials made communicating with the city inconvenient and frustrating.

San Antonio started the SASpeaksUp initiative to promote meaningful civic engagement, thereby leading to the successful development and implementation of policy and city programs. Through the SASpeakUp initiative, resident feedback would be shared with city leaders, and help shape future programs and projects. The city wanted to transform existing approaches into two-way communication and communicate with citizens how they want to be communicated with.

In order to empower its citizens to submit this feedback, the city needed a resident-centric solution that would build trust and accountability between the community and their local government. The City of San Antonio wanted to:

Ensure that public input is appropriately considered in the decision-making process; Use public participation to improve City programs, policies and ordinances.

Engage a broad range of stakeholders, with particular emphasis on those who do not normally take part in City public participation processes; make every effort to ensure that stakeholder groups do not feel left out of the process.

Make it as easy as possible to interact with the City; provide multiple opportunities for the public to provide input; when possible, meet people where they are instead of only requiring them to show up to a public meeting; utilizing the power of digital communications while being mindful of technology gaps.

Treat every input provided by the public as another step toward a more involved community by developing the infrastructure to foster sustained participation; residents who make the effort to participate should be continually brought in on future efforts; residents who want to share an opinion with their City organization should be able to do so at any given time.

The City of San Antonio used/is using Rock Solid's constituent engagement platform to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

The City of San Antonio selected a joint solution from Rock Solid, PrimeGov, and PublicInput to build engagement between the local government and the community they serve.

Rock Solid implemented its Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) solution in San Antonio, where the CRM will act as a centralized data hub.

Previously San Antonio’s council members each had their own method for collecting feedback, receiving requests from residents, and tracking results. With Rock Solid's CRM, all council members will use the same platform and have every resident interaction and the accompanying data consolidated into one platform and database.

For other city officials, the Rock Solid CRM allows access to all service requests from one platform. No matter which city department a resident interacts with, that department can view the total history of the constituent’s requests and how the city responded. With this new process, the city is promoting resident trust and making sure every instance of input will be appropriately considered.

By being able to see a resident’s requests from across departments, San Antonio has a unique opportunity to further engage residents who make the effort to participate. As Craig Hopkins, San Antonio CIO, explained “[Joe] is a very active resident in reporting potholes. He's out there advocating for streets in his neighborhood. Wouldn't we really like to know that about [Joe] so the next time there's a spot on a board or commission about city streets, we might want to reach out to [Joe] and say, ‘would you like to be more active in what we do here today?’”

“For the resident, all of these tools interact together rather than as siloed pieces that are all across the city that ask the resident to figure out how to best communicate with your office,” said Laura Mayes, Assistant Director, Government and Public Affairs, City of San Antonio.

Despite better data, a critical issue still facing local governments is getting residents to communicate with their government, and offering a variety of ways to empower that input. San Antonio knew how important it was to make it easy for residents to interact with the city, and to meet people where they are instead of requiring them to show up to a public meeting.

Rock Solid’s CRM allows San Antonio residents and their council members to connect through the traditional forms of communication (ex. city offices, physical mail, council or board meetings) with the addition of many others, including: smartphone app, website, phone call, email, and text message.

All engagement data will be stored in the CRM, regardless of whether the communication method was digital or not, showing awareness of the digital divide, and ensuring that those without access to digital devices are not left out.

Outcomes

  1. Residents can trust that their input is being considered, as City departments have one centralized platform to see historical resident engagement
  2. No matter what channel a resident chooses to use (in-person, phone call, web, mobile, etc.), their request will reach the correct department.
  3. The city can use historical citizen input data to identify residents who actively engage on certain topics, and use their feedback to inform future initiatives or plans.
  4. The city prioritized meaningful civic engagement in its implementation, which builds trust and accountability between the community and the government

Who Should Consider?

Rapidly growing cities looking to upgrade systems and processes around the goal of promoting meaningful civic engagement.

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