What are some of top concerns on the minds of municipal administrators and politicians in Canada? While it can change on a daily basis, common goals across the provinces include reducing costs and gaining efficiencies to minimize tax increases, providing the best possible levels of service to citizens, and developing productive work environments to retain staff and attract new talent. More than ever, cities are competing to attract business, people, and talent into their boundaries, and that doesn’t happen without a strategic plan or roadmap in place, with tangible projects mapped to these desired outcomes.
Citizen and stakeholder engagement is a key part of this process, because you can’t know what you need for the people if they can’t tell you directly. That’s why many cities in Canada are exploring very open and dynamic ways to engage with citizens to gauge their needs while balancing budgetary allowances. From these engagements, cities are using information gathered directly from citizens to set business frameworks, key priorities, and measurable indicators to monitor success.
Take for example Calgary, Alberta. In 2011, Calgary’s administration re-examined its process of business planning and budgeting to factor in additional considerations. Among these considerations, blending citizen engagement into the planning/budgeting process was determined to be a top priority to help Calgary boost transparency and align its operations more closely with citizen demands. To achieve this goal, the government of Calgary involved more than 23,000 participants in the process of developing its 2012-2014 budgets and business plans. As part of this process, the city engaged citizens in a rigorous discussion about what services citizens valued and what trade-offs they were willing to make, given limited resources.
The result of these discussions informed the development of Calgary’s fiscal plan, as well as the business plans of every city department. From engaging with citizens more closely in this effort, Calgary has seen productivity gains, as well as cost savings from aligning more closely with citizen demands and consulting with them to forge a sustainable path for the future. More broadly, from these discussions Calgary’s efforts revealed two findings:
Citizens value city services and do not want to see reductions in service
Citizens do not want the status quo – they want their city government to focus on service priorities and deliver services in more efficient ways
While these may not necessarily be “new” findings, I believe they help validate what municipal administrators have known for a long time: Citizens want better services from their city governments, and they want them delivered on their own terms. By engaging with citizens more in the business planning and budgeting process, municipal leaders in Canada are finding that they can better meet these expectations while balancing them with budget realities.
Check out our online video case study to learn how Microsoft is helping Calgary build a framework for greater citizen engagement.
Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let me know @Microsoft_Gov. Have a question for the author? Please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.