Engaging Engagement Diversifying Outreach Opportunities to Optimize...

Engaging Engagement Diversifying Outreach Opportunities to Optimize Resident Engagement

By Constance Halonen-Wilson, Public Information Officer, Town of Queen Creek

Constance Halonen-Wilson, Public Information Officer, Town of Queen Creek

The Town of Queen Creek, Arizona is a young, growing community. Incorporated in 1989 with just over 2,000 residents, the Town’s population has increased to nearly 52,000. As a community founded on rural, agricultural roots, part of the Town’s strategic growth has been to maintain resident engagement.

As the community has grown and technology has changed, the methods for engagement have evolved. The Town has adopted a multi-faceted, interactive approach to reach residents through a variety of settings.

Social Media

With the rise in social media, the Town harnessed the digital approach early on to engage with residents. The Town is on several social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, NextDoor, Twitter and YouTube. The Town’s Facebook page has more than 20,000 followers, nearly 40 Percent of the population. The Town’s social media presence has extended beyond municipal notifications like traffic alert and sandbag locations, which are important. To answer commonly asked questions, a video series titled ‘Why Wednesday’ was established featuring different employees. The Town’s social media is also used to bring residents to events that they are unable to attend. For example, a ribbon cutting for a new roadway was shared with residents via Facebook Live. The video reached more than 14,300 people with nearly 3,000 engagements.

Community Events

In person communication continues to be a priority for the Town. In an effort to interact directly with residents, the Town hosts two free community events each year designed specifically to provide education on Town programs and upcoming projects. During the summer residents are invited to attend an ice cream social and in the fall a pancake breakfast. At both events, different Town departments and divisions have information booths with staff available to answer questions and receive feedback directly from residents. The events continue to be well attended, with more than 1,000 attendees at each two-hour event, and they receive very positive feedback.

Educational Opportunities

Education about how and why the Town operates has been extremely beneficial to keeping residents engaged. While social media and community events provide excellent opportunities to answer questions and share information, it can be challenging to get into depth about more complex topics. To accommodate residents who want a more comprehensive understanding of how the Town works, Queen Creek offers a Citizen Leadership Institute. The 10-session program includes presentations from each department with tours of Town facilities. Graduates from the program serve as excellent ambassadors for the Town in neighborhoods, organizations and social circles.

Impact of Engaged Residents

Creating meaningful avenues for resident engagement can be time consuming, but it is time well spent. An engaged and informed community is more likely to participate in Town projects, resulting in more buy-in moving forward. The Town recently updated the General Plan, a document that serves as a framework for the future. Through social media, the community events and Citizen Leadership Institute, the Town was able to obtain extensive input from residents. The updated plan was ultimately approved by the voters of Queen Creek with 84 Percent in favor, an impressive result. Had the Town not invested the effort to build an ongoing relationship with residents and merely relied on public meetings, the typical method of gathering input for a general plan update, the plan would not have incorporated the true vision of the community and plan might not have been approved.

Evaluating how to successfully engage with residents will be an ongoing process for the Town. But providing education, seeking feedback and offering opportunities for engagement will continue to be a priority.

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