5 Ways New City Council Can Utilize Feedback Loops

LANSING, Mich. - Michimich -- As national politics begin to light up national media and local conversations once again, here is a reminder of simple ways newly elected community leaders can stay grounded.

Community Listening Sessions: People always have something to say, so why not use that energy as a resource? In doing so city council members can continue to use and strengthen conversations and deliberate channels that help residents and businesses feel heard and help them understand the ins and outs of city decision making – while strengthening relationships instead of straining them. Simple examples: a scheduled coffee time at the local café, a soup and bread luncheon, pizza at a community forum, or a community Q&A via Zoom or your favorite videoconferencing platform.

Online Surveys and Feedback Platforms: Implementing user-friendly online surveys and feedback platforms to gather input from community members who may not participate as much in face-to-face listening sessions. Doing simple online polls using Google Forms, Survey Monkey, or on Facebook and other social media can expand participation and understanding. Be careful to avoid questions that might be controversial or may require more scientific, representative data collection. If you need help with a thorny issue, Cobalt can help point you in the right direction or even do more complicated or sensitive research: https://www.cobaltcommunityresearch.org/

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Participatory Budgeting: Let residents have a say in how a part of the city budget is spent through engaging activities. By involving residents in budget decisions, you foster trust and enhance understanding of budget development.

Neighborhood Liaison Programs: Have council members appoint block captains or street liaisons to relay neighborhood concerns and distribute information to all residents. This establishes a communication channel and can uncover volunteers and future leaders. Liaisons can attend weekly meetings to share information, ideas, and address specific neighborhood needs.

Utilizing Community Outreach for Proposals: A city can work tirelessly to procure clean water, launch youth programs, and kickstart fresh new events, but it is hard to get traction if there is weak communication. Examples of weak communication? Relying on Facebook, newspapers, or city meetings to get the word out, and doing it too late and infrequently. Many towns have neat events hiding in pockets of the downtown area. These are awesome to stumble upon, but it is disappointing to find out about them after the event is over. By limiting communication efforts to one or two information channels a week before the event, participation can be limited, and organizers may be hesitant to try running a major event a second time.

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Reflecting on effective strategies tailored to your city is crucial. Embrace inclusive, informal community outreach for transparent communication, let these principles be the foundation for a city council that gets a strong start that stays strong for years to come.

Cobalt Community Research

Source: Cobalt Community Research

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