Community engagement

Leveraging Technology as a Community Engagement Strategy

Leveraging Technology as a Community Engagement Strategy

The following information is based on an applied research paper by Katherine Martin (MCRP+MS-PP '20). Applied research papers are completed by MCRP students as practice-oriented alternatives to theses. These papers utilize practical skills and draw conclusions related to professional planning practice.

Finding a New Form of Community Engagement

The purpose of this paper is to explore how technology can be incorporated into traditional community engagement to increase the number of people who are engaged. To stay connected with the voice of the community as communities and citizens change, a new form of community engagement will need to meet these communities where they are, in the digital age.

How Can You Pair Technology with Traditional Engagement?

How can technology be paired with traditional engagement to increase public participation?

  • Facebook Live / live stream / virtual meetings (Zoom, etc.) 
  • Digital reminders (via email or social media)
  • Pairing with online surveys to gather further engagement
  • Visualizations to illustrated data
  • QR code to provide resources
  • Have digital tools (tablets, phones) to sign up for email list
  • QR code to take people to a website
  • Using tools (Constant Contact, Mail Chimp) to increase outreach and curated emails
  • Visualizations
  • Toolkits created and shared online
  • Wiki creations for information sharing
  • Blogs
  • In-person surveys or online mechanisms of polling (Google, Doodle, etc.) 
  • Allow people to contribute online with questions or comments
  • Do scenario planning & visioning through online platforms
  • Online surveys, voting polls
  • Using apps to vote during meetings
  • Providing input with open-source and interactive mapping (location-based engagement)
  • Have tablets or phones (digital tool) to sign up for email list 
  • Have digital tool to give opinions at events 
  • Provide virtual tours
  • Digital newsletter 
  • Social Media presence
  • QR Codes to direct to online sources
  • Blogs with special topics
  • Civic technology, open data resources

Case Studies

These case studies are great examples of public engagement incorporating a technology component.

Parks Without Borders, NYC Parks, NYC

NYC Parks gathered public input through online stakeholder voting.

Participatory Budgeting, City of Chicago

City of Chicago used online surveys and town halls to engage with the community.

Minnesota DOT & Minnesota GO

MnDOT redesigned its website to create an online repository for training and webinars.

Digital Engagement Recommendations from Atlanta Case Study

When focusing on the perceived needs of the NPU system, we can identify the “low-hanging fruit” when it comes to technology incorporation into community engagement. 

First, individual NPUs can create accounts on social media platforms and if they are able to (because of capacity and funding), create a website. In the future, City of Atlanta could provide funding for the creation and upkeep of individual NPU websites.

Second, the City of Atlanta and individual NPUs can create digital newsletters to be disseminated to community members, including upcoming events, ways to volunteer, upcoming elections, upcoming agendas, etc.

“Digital engagement should be seen as an enhancement for traditional engagement to bring more voices to the table.” 

Implications of Pairing Traditional and Digital Engagement

One of the most important aspects to keep in mind when incorporating technology into public participation is that context determines the appropriate technology to be used. Something to keep in mind: go where people already are. If a large community of people is already present on a certain social media platform, go to them and engage there.


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