Case Study: How Temecula, CA, Increased Citizen Engagement through Technology
The City of Temecula, California, sets an outstanding example of how governments can connect with citizens, making citizen engagement a top priority in the name of creating a thriving, connected community. In a time where an abundance of data is always within reach, Temecula understands that the wealth of information available is an asset it can use to weave a digital infrastructure that bridges the gap between its government and its citizens.
Nestled in the heart of Southern California's wine country, Temecula is the perfect mix of history and modernity. From Old Town Temecula, full of antique shops and western-era architecture to the city's five breweries and numerous festivals, Temecula is a prime candidate for a relaxing vacation or a place to call home.
Temecula's appeal comes not just from its charming atmosphere and picturesque surroundings, but from the community of more than 110,000 citizens that brings the city to life. And the best part is the city government knows the value its citizens bring and prioritizes their involvement in everything from reporting public works issues to providing classes, programs, and events.
We are always all about our citizens. When citizens feel connected to government, it makes government better.
Senior IT Specialist
Getting the Word Out
A quick glance at Temecula's city website will make their commitment to citizens obvious. The first page of the website spotlights two initiatives aimed directly at citizens: a citizen-facing mobile app and a YouTube channel that keeps citizens up to date on what's happening around the city.
Ensuring everything citizens need to know can be found on the city website is a great start, but Temecula knows there's a more direct way to interact with its residents. Temecula has staff dedicated to sharing important citizen information on social media.
Seng said, 'We're starting to have a bigger presence on social media...what we're doing now is showcasing businesses that are opening or events happening in Temecula. We have a team who manages all of our social media accounts. If there's a gas leak or if there is a road closure, they will post it on all the different social media outlets.'
Multiple Channels of Communication
Temecula does a great job of making sure its residents are kept in the loop. One of the city's greatest assets is the government's understanding that citizen engagement is not a one-size-fits-all project.
'The median age is about 35. We have a lot of families and young adults in our city,' said Seng.
Everyone consumes information differently, especially in a younger, more tech-savvy population. Some citizens may be avid social media users, some may search YouTube before Google, some may always have the latest apps, and some may prefer television. Temecula does its best to cater to its audience across all available channels.
'You can visit our city website to get all the information you need about Temecula,' said Seng. 'We also have a Temecula government TV channel that plays city council meetings and content created by our staff specifically for our residents. We offer a City of Temecula app for users to download on an iOS, [Android], or Windows mobile device.'
Temecula even has a live webcam showing what's happening in the town square in real time. There truly is something for everyone.
Proof It's Working
Temecula has heavily invested time and resources in ensuring they have the tools needed to keep their citizens engaged (They produce their YouTube channel videos in-house!), and it's paying off. Temecula citizens are more connected to their community because of the efforts of the city's government, and the numbers prove it.
Seng said, 'The app was just released a month ago and we have almost 1,000 downloads.'
The City of Temecula app, created with MyCivicApps, is a tool that allows citizens to report public works issues, voice concerns, email council members, and access news stories.
'Previously, we had a website email contact form where we were seeing 50-60 emails come in in a month. Since we've had the app live, we've had 300 issues reported.'
That's a 400-500 percent increase! Add to that the nearly 850 YouTube subscribers and higher turnouts at groundbreakings and community events, and the upsurge in citizen engagement thanks to these technology-based tools is undeniable.
The Effect on Employees
While the increase in issues reported since the app's implementation does mean more work for city employees, it also means faster resolution times and in-depth analytics, both of which empower the staff to perform at a higher capacity.
Before, it was antiquated. They route a piece of paper when new issues come in. But now they receive them on their smartphones via MyCivicApps.
Senior IT Specialist
On the backend, management can track employee performance along with several other useful analytics that provide insight the city simply did not have with their previous approach.
These metrics open doors for the city to enhance their staff's overall performance, and everything the city workers do directly affects the environment of every Temecula citizen. By ensuring everyone is operating optimally, Temecula is ensuring the comfort and contentment of its citizens. Everything Temecula's government does ties back to its citizens and how to keep them happy and engaged so the community continues to thrive.
Temecula plans to keep adding to the web of tech that covers its city. The municipality has been using Tyler Technologies' EnerGov software for permitting and land management since late 2014 and plans to add EnerGov Citizen Self Service to its repertoire of citizen-engaging tech.
'That's somewhere we want to go for our businesses and for our homeowners if they want to build a patio or if they want to see what's going on. They can see if the McDonald's is going to open soon because they see it's been under construction — that type of stuff.'
A Connected Community
The future really is now for the City of Temecula, California. They've taken a step back from the 'that's the way we've always done it' mindset to consider not only the tools the city needs to function, but the tools its citizens need to be engaged to the point of creating a thriving community.
I think that most citizens want transparency. So, when you're opening yourself up to all of these ways that they can contact you and reach you, they feel more connected.
Senior IT Specialist
Connected communities are thriving communities, and thriving communities are supported by building digital infrastructures, which is exactly what Temecula is doing and plans to continue to do for the foreseeable future.