A community is only as strong as the level of engagement between its residents and its government representatives. Whether we’re talking about a small town with only a few thousand residents, or a large city with hundreds of thousands of people living and working within its limits, engagement is essential to creating a thriving, supportive community. Sadly, civic engagement can be lacking even at the best of times.
The Reasons for Declining Civic Engagement
Civic engagement is the cornerstone of any community. However, many factors have led to a decline in engagement and a slow withdrawing of many from the community-wide conversation. Some of these reasons include elements fostered by the rise of digital communications, such as a lack of civility.
However, there is also a lack of awareness and an increase in cynicism in regard to politics in general. Combatting increasing cynicism, raising awareness, addressing misinformation, and other issues can be done in a range of ways, including your municipal website.
How to Use a Website to Increase Civic Engagement
In an age of increasing disconnect and growing cynicism, it’s important that you use every tool at your disposal to increase engagement, foster understanding, and show your citizens that the community’s leaders actually care about their well-being. Your municipal website can be the key here. Below, we’ll address several important examples of how you can use your website to bolster engagement and drive positive communication.
1. Address a Matter of Concern
It’s important that your community’s leaders show citizens that they are not just interested in what their position can bring them, but how those positions can be used to benefit the community as a whole. Use your website to conduct polls or surveys that allow citizens to explain their most important areas of concern, whether that’s a rise in crime within certain neighborhoods, a lack of available youth sports activities, road and other infrastructure development or repair, a lack of new business influx, or something else completely. Tie your surveys and polls into your social media presences, too, so you can amplify your reach and drive traffic to your municipal website.
2. Highlight Extracurricular Activities
Whether we’re talking about after-school community sports programs, or something geared for older adults, extracurricular programs and activities within your community offer enrichment and engagement. However, many of your residents may not even know these activities exist. Make sure that you highlight them on your municipal website, share the information through social media, add it to your email campaigns, and more. Remember that having access to extracurricular activities not only builds community engagement, but helps to show where leaders are investing funds to the benefit of residents.
3. Help Homeschoolers Connect
Regardless of your personal take on the homeschooling movement, it is growing across the entire country. One way that you can help ensure a stronger community is to help homeschoolers in your municipality connect with others. Homeschool groups offer the opportunity for children to engage in sports, for group learning activities, and more.
4. Create a Digital Community Guide
Your city or town is rich in things to do, history, and culture. However, many of your residents might be missing out on these things. Creating a digital community guide and then hosting it on your municipal website can help you achieve a number of goals. First, it can help new and current residents learn more about the area. Second, it can drive physical foot traffic to local venues, historic sites, businesses, and other locations. Third, it can help bring your citizens together in these physical locations, creating a stronger bond and fostering a thriving community.
5. Help Residents with Recycling
Your community might be too small to have a full recycling program, but that doesn’t mean your residents aren’t interested in helping the planet and greening up the environment. Create a section of your website dedicated to waste reduction, recycling, upcycling, energy saving and other related topics. Even if you have no access to a plastic or paper recycling center, providing your citizens with information about how they can make an impact on a personal level can help foster discussion and build a stronger sense of community.
6. Provide Preparedness Information
Every community in the US is at risk for some sort of natural disaster. It might be a West Coast earthquake. Perhaps it’s a Gulf Coast or Atlantic Coast hurricane. It could be annual flooding in spring, lake-effect snow, Nor’easters, or something completely different. One way to show your citizens that their leadership cares about their welfare and to build a stronger sense of community is to provide preparedness information.
List things like where shelters will be set up in the event of an emergency, the items to include in a “bug out” bag, tips for preparing their homes against specific types of emergencies, and more. This information can take many forms, from blog posts to standard web pages to downloadable PDFs and much more.
Laying the Foundation
The key to building a stronger sense of community and fostering civic engagement is your municipal website. It’s essential that the site is mobile-friendly, accessible for those with disabilities, and easily navigable, in addition to housing vital information.
Many things play important roles when it comes to website design and function, including the CMS you choose, your layout, keyword implementation, quality and originality of the content on your pages, and more. For many communities, the time and money necessary to create a compelling, successful website is simply too much.
At Job Hub Group, we can help. We specialize in delivering affordable solutions tailored to your community’s requirements quickly and professionally. Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we can help you build a website ideal for increasing civic engagement and building a stronger community.