Website Transparency - Does It Really Engage Your Citizens?
For the most part, local governments understand the need to be transparent - in their processes, their tasks, and their intentions- even if they don't necessarily want to participate in being transparent.
There are many communities and municipalities that aren't afraid of taking the plunge; however, many governments at the local level have a hard time grasping is just how powerful a tool their website can be in actually engaging their citizens and answering questions.
Transparency is no new kid on the block when it comes to governments - it's a buzz word that is as much a part of the local government vernacular as bond issues, TIF districts and economic development. But transparency isn't just about giving citizens lots of information; transparency also entails opening up typically government-held processes to the public to expose them to the ins and outs of their local government, which many citizens probably don't fully understand.
Local governments provide so many services and do so many quality-of-life-enhancing things each day, but much of that goes unexposed to the public because of some irrational fear that putting information out to the public will create a firestorm of questions, rants, and threats. Effective transparency is positive, and it allows citizens to grasp all the ways their local government is helping them.
If a municipality or government organization truly wants to provide transparent services to its citizens, the best place to start is online. Transparency, as it relates to digital community engagement, means that:
- Data and information are readily available, without hoops to jump through to get to the information
- Citizens are encouraged to use their local government website as a way to answer questions
- Methods of providing feedback are available, and welcomed
So how does your community act out transparency on your local government website?
Let us know in the comments section below, and download our tip sheet "Digital Community Engagement Basics: Website Transparency," to see how some CivicPlus clients are tackling the transparency topic on their websites.