Transforming Community Development

June 01, 2021 by Meredith Trimble

Transforming Community Development

Governments were moving to digital processes even before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Over the past year, the landscape has shifted dramatically, accelerating these moves. A shift has also occurred in communities. Constituents are more aware than ever before of government’s online presence and are seeking new ways to access services and conduct government business remotely. Adopting or enhancing self-service options beyond the pandemic will keep communities operating in increasingly equitable ways.

An important area of opportunity for new, online citizen engagement is in community development. Interactions that used to require valuable time and resources, such as in-person permitting and licensing, can be managed with the click of a button. Residents and business partners can easily engage with government on local development projects on their own time and without the need for phone calls or office visits.

The jurisdictions below have successfully implemented online solutions in a way that improves the lives of constituents and increases government efficiency.

  • El Cajon, California, went from a paper-based environment to a completely virtual one in just 30 days. Quickly implementing citizen self-service at the start of the pandemic allowed the city to register 355 developer accounts in six weeks and process more than $200,000 in online permit and plan review fees. Other accelerated online services include virtual inspections and plan reviews along with a civic engagement mobile app.

  • Richmond, Virginia, added more than 700 users to its citizen self-service portal in one month as the city transitioned to online processes. In real terms, that is 700 new contractors and developers making payments online instead of waiting in lines in city hall.

  • Kansas City, Missouri, added more than 500 new users to their online citizen portal in March 2020 alone. In-person interactions were especially limited then, and digital engagement helped the city reduce in-person traffic at city hall. Kansas City’s digital portal includes resources such as a daily inspection tracker and a fee estimator. Thousands of constituents now use this portal to conduct their business virtually.

  • In Henderson, Nevada, frequent customers helped to facilitate the switch to online permit management. During 2020, 59% of overall permits were completed online, and the number of users increased by 20%. Since its introduction, more than 14,000 permit applications have been submitted through the online self-service portal, saving constituents time and money. The digital system has additionally empowered city employees to keep up with high demand through intuitive workflows and new efficiencies.
El Cajon, CA 355 developer accounts, $200,000 online permit and plan review fees
Richmond, VA 700 new citizen self-service users in one month
Kansas City, MO 500 added citizen self-service users in one month
Henderson, NV 14,000 online permit submissions, 59% online completion


This past year has pushed local governments to quickly innovate and digitalize their processes. The good news? Benefits from these changes will continue for years to come. An increasing amount of people rely on online resources, and governments that implement digital systems are finding strong success.

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