YORKTON - The City of Yorkton is set to invest in a new community engagement platform.
“City Council previously directed Administration to implement new ways to help inform and engage our community with decisions related to City projects, plans and programs,” related Jody MacDonald, Marketing Coordinator with the city at the regular meeting of Yorkton Council.
Work has been ongoing, said MacDonald.
“In 2020, we revealed the City’s website redesign, which provided several new options for ratepayers and clients to make online submissions. These included modules that allows the public to pay for utilities and City services online by credit card, to submit community events to our online community calendar, to subscribe to our News and Notices, to submit complaints with supporting photos, and for business license holders, to post details and photos of their business to our online Business Directory. We have also used our online form builder to conduct surveys and to carry out contests,” she said.
“We have additionally increased social media activity through Facebook and Instagram, and more recently implemented the Voyent Alert app, which provides residents with notices for emergencies, vehicle accidents, water service disruptions and temporary street closures.”
But, it was felt more still needed to be done, offered MacDonald.
“Even though we have increased our community engagement through our website and social media, we were still missing an effective way to keep the public informed while also allowing them to communicate and engage with us on the progress of specific projects. So in the spring of 2022, staff reviewed a variety of engagement strategies, tools and techniques utilized by other municipalities,” she said.
The search was narrowed down to one community engagement platform, Bang The Table EngagementHQ. Bang The Table already works with over 900 municipalities and government agencies across Canada and the United States, providing an all-in-one digital engagement platform that collects and connects community feedback. Bang The Table has been successfully used by other Saskatchewan cities such as Regina, Lloydminster, and Swift Current, said MacDonald.
MacDonald said the new platform “will provide both City and neighbouring residents, as well as local business owners, an online forum for engagement activities including polls, surveys, discussion forums, idea boards, and more. ‘Shape Your City’ seamlessly connects to the City website, establishing a convenient touchpoint for information, feedback and updates on current and upcoming City projects, plans, programs and contests. This tool will allow public information meetings to be held online and will generally augment our existing engagement practices (such as committee meetings, mail outs, etc.).”
The platform is supposed to improve communication from the City to residents.
“The goal of ‘Shape Your City’ is to provide a respectful space for residents to interact with each other and increase the depth and breadth of public involvement in City processes. With the convenience and flexibility of the platform, we hope to increase participation rates in our public engagement process, and to include the voices of those who may have been missing from the conversation,” said MacDonald.
“Shape Your City will also help staff to provide clear and effective reporting to Council regarding community feedback on key issues and projects, affording Council the opportunity to make decisions with a better understanding of community implications. Input from the community can be tailored to the needs of the project and all the feedback submitted through the platform is constantly monitored by Bang The Table and City of Yorkton admins to ensure inappropriate or objectionable comments are removed quickly.”
Projects submitted through ‘Shape Your City’ are considered live documents that will continuously be updated by the project management team, while the projects are in progress. Once complete, the project page will be archived and live on the site for public reference.
The ‘Shape Your City’ platform carries an annual cost of approximately $12,000 and is funded from the existing operating budget.
Mayor Mitch Hippsley said the current Council has been very focused on better community communication because too often there is “misinformation” floating around. He said the new platform “makes it so easy,” to get the correct information out to people.
Councillors Dustin Brears and Quinn Haider said the platform is another example of efforts to better communicate with residents.
Coun, Darcy Zaharia said in looking at a budget survey already on the platform it proved to be “very informative,” adding it’s important “to keep our citizens more updated on what’s happening.”
Council was unanimous in supporting the new platform which is accessible through the city’s webpage.