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Become a smart city overnight: 4 proven ways to connect with your citizens & improve quality of life in your town

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Think service design only works for big corporations? Think again.

Service design is a way for cities, towns and municipalities to improve communication with their citizens. And we all know what happens in vibrant, connected communities, yes?

Quality of life improves!

So you want to improve your city so you can recruit more families to flourish there? You first have to understand the needs of your citizens and using that info to create initiatives that meet their goals.

We know because we’ve helped communities do just that. Take it from our home city of Indianapolis, Indiana.

In this article, we will look at four data-proven ways to better connect with citizens and improve quality of life in your town.

Background about Indianapolis

Indy is no stranger to transformation. That’s for sure.

Creative placemaking, affordable housing projects, economic redevelopment. Great goals! But most of the city’s initiatives have fallen short of real community engagement.

The warning signs?

  • Low resident turnout at neighborhood festivals
  • Backlash from discouraged citizens who feel unheard and uninformed

We needed to rethink how to involve such a unique community.

In 2016 we partnered with the city of Indianapolis to celebrate our bicentennial (a big deal!) and use our service design methods to reconnect our community’s residents with organizations and the city.

The progress we made in wouldn’t have been possible without the dedicated from these remarkable partners:

  • A non-profit organization dedicated to the growth of its community
  • Indiana University
  • The largest community development corporation in the U.S.
  • And of course, so many amazing residents

Here’s what we did:

1. Create special programming to encourage discourse

As I mentioned, the only way you’ll create a place people want to live is by discussing openly your community’s goals, strengths and yes – even its pitfalls.

Host workshops, forums and other events that allow your citizens to share their honest opinions, concerns and ideas.

In Indianapolis, we wanted to create a better relationship between residents and the city. So created resident- and community-driven programming to encourage the free flow of ideas. This was a platform designed by and for citizens to voice their opinions and help the community understand their needs and desires.

Because without first understanding the goal, how can you possibly create positive change?

Born in 2016 was the annual Indianapolis Art Walk.

2. Facilitate community outreach pop-up sessions

Pop-up sessions are another effective way to promote resident-community engagement. These sessions don’t have to be fancy. Just include tools and prompts to encourage citizens to share their ideas and challenges.

For example, we designed sessions specifically targeting youth and minorities – the future of our shared community. The city learned how they may be able to collaborate better and serve the community in the future.

The goal of these sessions is to create a safe space, a comfortable avenue for your citizens to share their feedback – of which they have plenty. Trust us!

3. Host a party or kickoff to your new initiative

If you don’t tell your residents about all your awesome new initiatives, how are they going to know?

Make it loud and clear. I shouldn’t have to tell you twice to host a party 🕺 💃

Provide a way for citizens to come together, celebrate their community and share their hope for the future.

In Indianapolis, we hosted the River West Street Festival Kickoff Party to …

  1. Celebrate all our partners’ hard work and dedication to progress
  2. Gather information and feedback from residents

Sure, a party is a great way to celebrate everything and everyone. But if your citizens leave not knowing what your initiative is all about? Then it’s a wash.

Devote your kickoff’s resources to making your statement loud and proud:

We’re here to bring positive change to our community. How can we help you live a better life here in our city?

4. Conduct 1-on-1 interviews

Community engagement doesn’t have to be complex and difficult. At its root, you’re creating relationships with your residents – that’s it.

Try going back to basics. Seriously!

What’s a better way to understand the needs of your citizens than by asking them?

Interviews in and of themselves aren’t a great strategy – and not a great use of your time either. Don’t lean solely on interviews to inform your city’s direction.

But if you pair 1-on-1s with other strategies to understand your residents, they’re effective

These interviews allow for deeper discussion around …

  • Daily routines
  • Concerns
  • Desires
  • Hopes

… of both short- and long-term residents.

Collect that data and strive to improve upon it.

So use these four proven ways to better connect with citizens and improve quality of life in your town.

  1. Create special programming to encourage discourse
  2. Facilitate community outreach pop-up sessions
  3. Host a party or kickoff to your new initiative
  4. Conduct 1-on-1 interviews

Your residents deserve a vibrant, connected, engaged community. And it’ll be a heck of a lot easier to recruit new families to your town too.

Want to learn more in-depth how we were able to transform some of Indianapolis’s most disadvantaged communities? Schedule your consult.

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