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Resident Engagement During COVID-19

In this unprecedented moment, the Davenport Institute will be dedicating our News Page to providing a one-stop place for resources related to engaging with your residents in an era of social distancing. We will be sharing thought pieces, podcasts, and webinars from our staff and strategic partners, highlighting free tech resources and toolkits, and featuring creative ideas for building community.

If you know of resources we haven't shared yet, please send them to us! We will be reviewing and updating this page regularly.


Thought Pieces on Public Engagement

This Fiscal Crisis Requires Bold ActionsEd Everett
Founding Davenport Institute Advisory Council Member Ed Everett looks at how the fiscal crisis caused by COVID-19 requires local governments not to just "cut the budget" but instead to take an opportunity to rethink and redesign city services

During This Crisis Cities Must Think and Act Dramatically Differently - Alliance for Innovation
Founding Davenport Institute Advisory Council Member Ed Everett explores how the false promise that government can solve problems without resident involvement is exposed during a crisis like COVID-19

Conducting Business Remotely While Maintaining Citizen Input - ICMA
Among other challenges, this blogpost looks at best practices for local governments to adapt so that citizens can remain active participants in the public engagement process.

As Schools Go Virtual, What Gets Left Behind - Washington Examiner
The Davenport Institute's new assistant director Pooja Bachani DiGiovanna looks at how school districts, which have long taken face-to-face, high-touch interactions between teachers, students, and parents for granted are working to keep their immediate communities engaged when locations are closed down for COVID19.

How to Build an Invincible Community in this Uncertain World - ICMA
Beyond "getting business done," what opportunities does responding to a rapidly-developing crisis provide for community development? By practicing self-reflection, cultural awareness, and proactive leadership, this allows for enhanced trust to become embedded in our communities when this is most needed.

Note: Some of these webinars have already taken place, but were recorded. In those cases the recordings are linked.

Western Riverside Council of Governments Future Forward: Davenport Institute Featured
Ashley Labosier, executive director of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy, discusses how COVID-19 will affect the need for and means by which local governments engage. (Recording available here).

Davenport Institute and ELGL Webinar Series: Connectivity and COVID-19
Close connection to the communities you serve sets local government apart from national or even state government. This can make the social distancing restrictions of COVID-19 feel like an existential threat. ELGL and the Davenport Institute are excited to co-host a four-part webinar series exploring how local leaders are maintaining connection, both to community and to colleagues, that will last even beyond the current crisis 
(all four webinars are at 11 am Pacific Time).

International Association of Public Participation USA/Canada COVID-19 Webinars

The International Association of Public Participation (IAP2) series of webinars explores innovative and responsive best practices for public engagement during the COVID-19 crisis. The goal is to offer tips and advice on how to adapt and maintain community, address barriers to access, and facilitate meaningful conversations.

eDemocracy webinars from Ethelo
This regularly scheduled webinar is currently exploring democracy in the context of COVID-19. 

Institute for Local Government (ILG) webinar - Transparency, Public Access & Trust (view the recording)
This webinar looks at how local governments can navigate current and changing requirements for transparency and public access.

Crisis as OpportunityAshley Labosier, Davenport Institute for Mercatus Center, George Mason University
In this policy brief, executive director Ashley Labosier explores how local governments can foster inclusive, impactful public engagement and why that will be necessary during the COVID-19 recovery and beyond. 

Leadership Before, During, And After a Crisis - ICMA

Published before the COVID-19 crisis, this report includes a variety of case stories, qualitative research, and testimonials emerging from local government leaders. The Davenport Institute team found it offered helpful perspective to think about how the decisions we are making now when it comes to engagement and other challenges can impact beyond the crisis moment.

Four Government Strategies to Operate and Communicate Better During a Crisis - OpenGov
This eBook is available for download (you do have to provide contact info to OpenGov in order to download it) and explores how technology can help: 1) operate in an emergency & afterword,  2) two-way virtual communications, 3) agile planning in a crisis, 4) budgeting in uncertain times.

Weekly Community Conversations on the Coronavirus - ICMA
This podcast series offers listeners the opportunity to learn from best practices and successful case stories of local governments' responses to COVID-19. Engagement is an occasional theme, though the series looks at the crisis more broadly.


Technology Tools

A number of online engagement platforms have created special resources for local governments to use during COVID-19, many of which are available for free. We will be sharing tools that we come across and trying to help you navigate what they are designed to do. The Davenport Institute does not endorse any particular tool, and encourages local governments to think holistically about how online tools intersect with your overall engagement strategy.

Tools for Informing Residents

Free Granicus Covid Toolkit: Recognizing that one challenge in a crisis is cutting through bad information, Granicus is offering Community Information Sign Up buttons and other tools for local governments to direct people to reliable, multi-agency government information.

Public Input COVID 19 Public Meeting Toolkit: This toolkit is designed to integrate conferencing, live broadcast and social media tools into a single platform to allow for both continuation of regular open public meetings as well as more innovative engagement efforts.

HSAC@SPP Crisis Map: For Southern Californians, Homeland Security Advisory Council at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy is using it's SALUS emergency management platform to provide a place-based picture of all things COVID-19 related.  From an overview of persons diagnosed with COVID-19, to a map of LAUSD, LA County and Orange Count school district "grab and go" food locations,  older adult nutrition center information, temporary shelters, and more it's an excellent tool for keeping up-to-date on an ever-changing situation.

Los Angeles Forward Crisis Response Guides: Most relevant to our Southern California community, this is a reliable library of crisis response guides, designed to target various audience groups. These include resources for the financially vulnerable, resources for families and parents, and resources for mental health care.

Tools for Consulting Residents

Polco - Free COVID-19 Community Polls: Online survey platform Polco has created a series of pre-loaded surveys available to local governments with the creation of a free profile.

  • The Household Status Survey reveals how residents are getting information, perceived levels of risk to the community, and employment situations
  • Resident Knowledge and Attitudes Survey measures and tracks resident knowledge of COVID-19, attitudes and emotional health
  • Community Action Survey shows support for actions community leaders could take, and what behaviors and actions residents are taking to help stop the spread of COVID-19

Center for Priority Based Budgeting - Resource X COVID19 Tool: This tool for budget engagement and transparency provides a variety of resources for local governments to connect with both residents and other practitioners and well as tools for mapping challenging fiscal scenarios to provide local government leaders with the tools to reduce uncertainty, think proactively, and understand their agencies' financial futures.

Tools for Collaborating with Residents

While these tools are not specific to COVID-19, they are good options for those of you taking advantage of the shift from "business as usual" to explore ways of encouraging online collaboration, here are some platforms that allow residents to interact, not only with government, but with each other for a more robust discussion of community ideas and priorities.

Bang the Table's Engagement HQ : Australian-based Bang the Table is the OG of online public participation. They offer a range of feedback tools from moderated comments, polls, and surveys to facilitated forums and idea sharing, to storytelling, to map-based placemaking.

Ethelo - Online Decision Making : Ethelo is geared toward consensus building through engaging diverse stakeholders in a series of ranked choice and prioritization exercises around complex issues to foster a comprehensive decision-making environment. It uses a combination of algorithms to provide clients with practical results and identify fair decisions in difficult situations.

PublicInput : Designed to integrate online and offline engagement, PublicInput provides an online dashboard that can incorporate feedback from in-person pop-ups and workshops as well as online forums, social media comments, etc. It also contains tools for identifying where feedback is coming from that can allow you to target a greater diversity of residents, or to focus in on those most immediately impacted by a decision.

Tools for Building Community

Weaving2020: #WeavingCommunity is a national conversation project full of resources for building stronger communities during times of crisis. It provides online conversation guidelines, conversation prompts, and best practices for sharing experiences, testimonials, and emotions in environments shaped by crises.

Living Room Conversations Coronavirus Guides: These comprehensive conversations guides serve as a tremendous resource for communities to begin conversations regarding the impact of COVID-19 in a constructive way. This platform offers a simple, structured, and responsible way to build a greater understanding and cultivate new relationships.

Imagine Neighborhood Resources for Children: It can be hard to know how to connect with and engage the youngest members of our community in a time of crisis. But for many children, COVID-19 has meant significant disruption - schools and daycare centers closed, parents perhaps more physically present but balancing work and childcare, little or no access to friends and extended family. The Imagine Neighborhoods Podcast, geared for children age 4-11, is providing age-appropriate podcasts about the pandemic that could be a valuable starting point for engaging children.


Additional Resources

Code for America Interns: Code for America's founder is aligning 1000+ interns to help governments with their most urgent digital, data & operational needs as they respond to the crisis. Services range from making it easier to collect data, maintain functional websites, and building digital products. Could your government use some extra help?

CivicTech Coronavirus Field Guide: This field guide includes continuous updates on COVID-19, virtual events, funding opportunities, and collaborative civic tech projects as a way to build community as we respond and recover to the current health crisis.

(ELGL) Local Government COVID-19 Resources: For the last several weeks ELGL has been crowdsourcing their membership for resources related to COVID-19 response. It's a lot to sort through, but for those looking for a deep dive its a robust place to start.

International Association of Public Participation (IAP2) Resources: IAP2 Canada has collected a significant list of resources specific to engagement. We will seek to highlight some of them on this page, but wanted to link to the full list for those interested in a deep dive.

Institute for Local Government COVID-19 Resources: The Institute for Local Governments' page contains a frequently-updated list of broad resources for local governments addressing COVID-19, some of these are public engagement related (we will try to share the most relevant ones here as well)