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Inclusive engagement helps Middleton reach more residents and make informed decisions

The City of Middleton

Middleton, WI

The City of Middleton made resident engagement more inclusive, reaching diverse residents who typically did not participate. The representative community feedback that was gathered was used to support informed decision-making.

Topics Covered

Transparency
Civic Technology
Customer Service
Process Improvement

Cost

Initial: 15.5 Thousand USD

Funding

General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Project Status

In Progress/Under Construction since 2022

Gov Champion

City Administrator

Problem Addressed

The leaders of Middleton, Wisconsin have long sought ways to better engage community members, especially those that can be hard to reach.

Truthfully, most residents can be considered hard to reach since it is difficult for many to attend public meetings.

“It’s incumbent to not just let the squeaky wheel dominate the conversation. Our role as local government leaders is to solicit discussion and engender the voices of all,” said Mike Davis, City Administrator of Middleton, Wisconsin.

Solutions Used

Since 2016 Middleton has elevated resident voices through embracing an online community engagement platform.

Middleton has used the Polco platform to poll residents and conduct scientific benchmarking surveys of resident needs.

“To really engage with all our residents is critical. Polco is the most viable way I can think of to do that. Polco fits a niche for local government that enables us to do our job better,” said Davis.

IDENTIFYING RESIDENT RESPONSES

When they began using Polco, Middleton’s leaders found it helpful to see the difference between resident and non-resident responses.

“When we did our annual resident satisfaction survey with SurveyMonkey, we had about the same number of respondents as we have on Polco. But you can be doing SurveyMonkey from Russia,” said Davis. “When we use Polco for polling, we know what district people are responding from even though the actual identity of the person is confidential.”

Middleton’s Parks Department used Polco to ask residents to vote on playgrounds.

“It was helpful to document out of state responses since we figured they might be from the vendor,” said Davis.

Middleton also plans to look at where feedback is coming from as they plan for an upcoming airport master plan.

“People from different parts of Middleton have different opinions on the airport. Our rural residents are not voting members of the community. It will be helpful to see where they stand on the master plan,” said Davis.

REACHING MORE RESIDENTS

This past year, Middleton conducted The National Community Survey (The NCS) and The National Business Survey (The NBS) for the first time. Both surveys come from Polco’s survey science team National Research Center (NRC).

The NCS and The NBS use scientific sampling. They also use nationwide benchmarking against other similar communities to put results into context.

“With these surveys we engaged a lot more of the public than ever before. We had more people of color respond. These national surveys will give us a good benchmark for moving forward,” said Davis.

Davis says they were able to engage hundreds of residents with The NCS and The NBS after sending postcards to randomly selected households. Middleton used the results to inform their comprehensive plan.

“Middleton has great quality of life ratings, government performance, and economic ratings. This is notable given that The NCS and The NBS were administered right in the middle of COVID, and this is the first time Middleton conducted the surveys,” said Jade Arocha, Senior Program Analysts for Polco.

Despite the exciting results, Middleton is just getting started using Polco to make resident voices heard.

Outcomes

1

Reaching more residents: Middleton engages more residents than ever before through scientific benchmarking surveys and frequent polls. Leaders track subscriber numbers on the Polco platform.

2

Gathering more representative feedback: More people of color provided Middleton their opinions than ever before, allowing feedback to be more representative of the community

3

Make more informed decisions: Middleton can see which responses come from residents of the community, allowing city leaders to make decisions based on resident priorities

4

High-Quality Survey Data: Middleton conducted surveys for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic and received high quality of life, government performance, and economic ratings.

Who Should Consider

Local government leaders passionate about improving resident engagement, especially those focused on increasing the diversity of voices included.

Last Updated

May 2nd, 2022

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