A Welcome Kit to Support Civic Engagement

Organization / Institution:               City of Gainesville

Client:                                         Office of the Clerk of the Commission

Role:                                           Project Lead

Supervisor:                                   Jacqueline Stetson

Location:                                      Gainesville, Florida

Context

Participating in public meetings, voicing your opinions, and influencing community decisions is essential for a healthy democracy. Yet, learning how to engage in local government can be overwhelming and alienating. 

How might we help our neighbors easily learn how to engage with local government?

Deliverable

  • Welcome kit for City Commission attendees

  • A digital kit to learn how to virtually engage and make public comments during the Covid-19       Stay-at-home order

Timeline

Welcome kit: 6 weeks (January - March 2020)

Digital kit: 1 week (Covid-19 emergency

Key Contribution

  • Research

  • Strategy

  • Visual Design

  • User Testing

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PROJECT SNAPSHOT

The Challenge

Local governments make decisions that can impact our daily city experience. As residents of a city, we can influence and help shape these decisions by engaging with our local council/commission. Yet few residents participate and contribute to community decision making. This results in decisions that do not necessarily reflect the overall value and opinions of the city.

Good design can play a crucial part in increasing civic participation and in improving the overall quality of engagement. The overall service experience can be improved by designing for convenience, efficiency, and delight. 

 

The Clerk of the Commission at Gainesville collaborated with the neighbor-centered design team to initiate efforts to improve this experience. 

Our Approach

  1. Defining a focused area of inquiry: Onboarding experience of residents who are new to City Commission meetings

  2. Understanding challenges and expectations through user research

  3. Designing a solution to improve this experience

  4. Testing and validation

Findings & Opportunities

Residents​ who are new to City Commission meetings often feel overwhelmed and alienated by the overall experience. The meeting agenda presupposes a basic understanding of how meetings are held, its purpose, and key stakeholders. The terms that are frequently used during the meeting can further alienate new attendees. Many residents struggle with making a clear public comment within the allotted 3 minutes.

 

Constraints & Challenges

  1. Residents require a quick and easy to grasp learning solution.

  2. The design needs to be convenient enough to be used both before and during the meeting.

  3. Accessibility, technological proficiency, and plain language requirements have to be met.

  4. The design must be scalable, modular and easy to modify by city staff including staff with limited design proficiency. 

  5. The learning solution must be cost effective and a smart use of taxpayer money. 

Our Solution

A learning kit designed to provide both context and support to new residents.

The kit was piloted through a simple hardcopy. Testing was done by City staff who welcomed new attendees at the entrance of City Hall with the hardcopy of the kit

A digital version of the kit was created to adapt to virtual public meetings during the  Covid-19 health crisis. 

Here are some highlights - 

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Agenda Overview

A condensed version of the meeting agenda designed to help the resident plan their trip to City Hall. 

This overview visually lays out the opportunities to make a public comment.

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Setting Context

Understanding the purpose of a Commission meeting. Getting to know the layout of the room, the different stakeholders, and their roles.

The colors and forms were designed to match accessibility standards.

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Other Engagement Opportunities

Learning other opportunities to engage with the commission 

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FAQs

A quick set of instructions to help the resident prepare for their public comment

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Glossary

A glossary of frequently used terms was added to help residents look up unfamiliar terms. Residents contribute to building up this glossary through a feedback form attached with the kit.

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Public Comment Planner

This public comment planner was designed to help residents structure their thoughts and plan an effective comment under the allotted 3 minutes.

The colored timeline was designed to mimic the light indicator system at the podium.

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