In Seattle, lack of communication between city departments about their own outreach efforts to local neighborhoods resulted in the same neighborhoods being contacted repeatedly by different departments. Eventually, these neighborhoods viewed this as a lack of listening and began to lose trust in the engagement process itself. The goal for the City Accelerator project in Seattle, therefore, was to create an internal system to better enable communication across its various departments so that offices can collaborate on their outreach and engagement efforts. It also sought to build upon prior interactions for more meaningful relationships.
To that end, Seattle’s team created a central pipeline of communication for its nearly forty city offices and departments to coordinate internally across engagement efforts, approaches, and evaluation practices. In addition, a simple checklist is now filled out before and after every engagement experience with every City department. This checklist also provides a basic means of reporting back to communities about what they’ve heard, how they are responding, and what relevant issues remain to be discussed.
The work of archiving and cataloging conversations with citizens has helped to frame public engagement as a continuous conversation, rather than a one-way mechanism for relaying information. By improving inter-departmental communication, the City of Seattle has improved their relationships with local neighborhoods, too. As a result, Seattle has seen increased participation in public engagement.