Measuring Community Engagement

Six most common activities local governments are using to engage their citizens.

ARTICLE | Apr 30, 2012

Is your city council frustrated that it only hears from residents when they have a complaint? Are you doing all you can to encourage positive interactions with government as well as develop residents’ sense of ownership (versus entitlement) in the community?

ICMA’s most recent InFocus reports that residents of Montgomery, Ohio—where, in 2010, the Leadership ICMA capstone team evaluated Montgomery’s citizen engagement programs— want the government to involve them on an ongoing basis in setting priorities, defining outcomes, and designing services that reflect their needs and preferences.

Research indicates when residents are directly engaged . . . policy and program initiatives have a greater success rate. In addition, . . . trust in government increases. There is a pragmatic angle to this involvement as well: . . . if residents can help provide services, they save the city time and money.

So what are all governments doing to engage their communities? A variety of activities and programs emerged during [the] research . . . Findings showed that the six most common civic engagement activities are


  1. Volunteer program—29 cities
  2. Resident surveys—29 cities
  3. Newsletter—28 cities
  4. E-government—28 cities
  5. Citizens’ academy—25 cities
  6. Social media—24 cities.

Excerpted and adapted from Amanda Thompson and Laura Allen, “Measuring Community Engagement,” InFocus, Vol. 43, No. 5, 2011.


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