So, what can small cities teach us about civic engagement?
Solve Problems First. Build Second.
Scale is always important. Smaller cities aren’t usually working with a budget that grants them data analytics offices and big digital services teams. For what few civic engagement staffers a small city might have at its disposal, data analytics simply needs to be a part of everyday life. What can be measured during the course of a regular day in the city, and how can that data be applied most effectively?
No matter how big the city, there are problems to solve. Big or small, solving problems means developing a city that can sustain scale and growth. As problems are solved, more room for possibility emerges. Look at places impacted heavily by natural disasters as an example. Even small communities that implemented online permitting systems and digital record-keeping gave residents a better chance to rebuild their lives.
Small Cities Think Regionally.
It is the nature of small cities to be lacking in the resources of their bigger counterparts. Cooperation is a necessity for smaller cities, and it is this cooperation that often provides small cities an advantage when scaling up or solving issues. Where big cities can be bogged down by their own capabilities or get their wires crossed, small cities rely on surrounding cities to help manage issues. Joint, interactive programs and resource sharing provides greater mobility in flexibility in larger projects.
Upgrade Your Staff, Maximize Results.
We mentioned before that small cities may only be able to handle small tasks at first. This is due to their lack of large teams. But small teams don’t have to only deal in small ideas. Providing additional training to your team — however small — can increase the amount and scale of things the team can handle, which can lead to the implementation of better products. It’s also cost-effective and more efficient to have a few widely-skilled employees versus a huge team of specialized members. This can give the whole team a chance to be involved with a project, which means it’ll be done with higher quality.
And there you have it! These are the ways small cities can teach us about civic engagement. It’s important to remember that small size doesn’t mean no big results. It’s simply a matter of using what you have at your disposal! Find what works, discard what doesn’t, and keep working to build a civic engagement team that can really improve the lives of your city’s residents.