At a Glance
Santa Monica's Office of Civic Wellbeing wanted more block parties to help neighbors connect. Replacing a paper-based process with a digital workflow, the Traffic Management Division moved the application and multi-department reviews online. It's produced a 5x increase in participation with little impact on staff.
Santa Monica's Office of Civic Wellbeing wanted to increase the number of block parties to help neighbors connect. In its initial wellbeing surveys, community members shared that they wanted to get to know their neighbors, but weren't sure how. The team zeroed in on replacing the arduous, paper-based block party application process as one opportunity to increase local connections. The City's Traffic Management Division of the Planning and Community Development Department was open to new ideas and new methods. Together, we came up with a plan to improve neighborhood connections.
In 2017, block party applicants had to fill out a long application, collect neighborhood support signatures on paper, and then walk the entire package around to multiple city departments (in different buildings!) to get sign-off. The result? In a community of almost 100,000 people there were only 4 block parties!
Santa Monica used/is using the CityGrows workflow automation platform to address this/these challenge(s).
In late 2018, the City moved the block party application onto CityGrows, and the change was noticeable immediately. With an easy-to-complete, mobile-friendly online application, more residents decided to create events in their communities.
The City's approval process requires 5 different City departments to review and sign off on block parties, so having a single online portal for all staff to track review status and send automated status updates and change requests to applicants made a big difference.
We're proud to report there have been more than 35 block parties in the year since Santa Monica since the city switched to CityGrows (check out the open data page for the application to see the stats for yourself). And what's even more impressive, is that staff didn't need to spend five times more time to manage the increase in volume. In fact, the higher volume was manageable without any additional staff time, and applications were approved more quickly.
Because CityGrows streamlines and automates communication with applicants and notifies reviewers when they have a new application to approve, applications move through the multi-departmental review process quickly. And applicants can share a link with their neighbors to get approval online!
There are many benefits to neighborhood events and block parties. Besides being a fun way to spend an afternoon or evening, block parties build connections among neighbors. Those connections can make all the difference! Stronger social connections means that communities are better prepared if disasters happen, and more likely to work together to solve problems.
- Santa Monica increased the number of block parties by 5x - without needing more staff time to manage the increase volume.
- Bringing their paper-based process online prompted the Traffic Management team to think about how they could simplify the process for applicants and staff. They eliminated unnecessary steps.
- City staff can show elected officials and commissioners real-time data, and the community can see stats for block parties on the Block Party workflow's open data page.
- It's important to engage all departments that will touch a new digital permitting process during the planning. Involving Police, Fire, and other departments from the beginning was key!
Because CityGrows is easy to use and update, the Traffic Management team is continuing to improve and revise the block party permitting process to make it even easier and faster.
Who Should Consider?
Any community that wants to increase block parties, special events, and other community-building, neighbor-connecting activities by streamlining the permitting process.