Have you ever had the experience of going through a lengthy process to develop a new plan or project only to have a few vocal community members publicly oppose the project at the last minute, claiming to speak on behalf of the wishes of the larger community?
You know the outcome — Facebook and other social media suddenly explode with information (and misinformation) about the proposed project. City leaders rush in with additional information in an effort to sway public opinion, but with mixed results. Residents are left with the impression that their input isn’t valuable to their elected officials. City leaders are frustrated, as they attempted to distribute information earlier in the process via their normal communication channels with little success.
At the National League of Cities (NLC), we recognize that this happens in communities across country every day.
That’s why NLC has teamed up with Polco, an organization that is changing the way local elected officials get input and buy-in from their constituents. Polco delivers the ease and accessibility of an online survey combined with the verification and reliability of in person engagement.
“We are excited to partner with a company that gives local governments the tools to make smarter, more efficient and more democratic decisions,” said Clarence E. Anthony, NLC’s CEO and executive director. “Polco shares NLC’s vision to build stronger communities across the nation.”
“At Polco, public service isn’t just a goal, it’s our passion,” according to Nick Mastronardi, CEO of Polco. “We are excited to partner with NLC to bring innovative communication to local government because we know it delivers improved quality of life for our communities.”
Here’s an example of how it works:
Bar Harbor is a town of about 5,000 people, located on Mount Desert Island near Acadia National Park in Maine. Year-round residents are treated to beautiful scenery, a high quality of life, and excellent public services. Tourism is a primary industry and the community consistently strives to support its economic benefits while preserving Bar Harbor’s small town environment.
Prior to Polco’s association with the Town of Bar Harbor, there was never a lack of citizen input. On issues ranging from land development to parking, residents used town meetings and online forums to voice opinions. While successful in getting input, audiences were typically unpredictable and in many cases, not reflective of the overall community demographics. Residents expressed frustration that their voices were not heard or taken into consideration. The town’s communication strategy, without one central location to gather input and little data supporting who actually participated, frustrated local officials because short of anecdotal evidence, they weren’t able to nail down exactly who was missing.
Three months into their adoption of Polco and coupled with a strategic engagement plan, the results are clear. With over 5% of the population now registered and using the Polco platform, the community has been able to verify and document the concerns of its residents, especially residents below the age of 40. This has helped the community strengthen its strategic approach to engaging residents on important local issues, and has led to a higher level of confidence when making decisions that impact the community.
Want to learn more about Polco? Visit nlc.org/polco and get a free demonstration to find out if it’s right for your community.