Michael Fann, ARM-P, MBA, The Pool-TN and George Dalton, ARM-P, MCM, The Pool-TN address the risk exposure communities are suspect to during a session at the 2017 PRIMA conference. Most members of the general public appreciate the services that the governmental entities provide, but there is potential for the encounter to be negative or adversarial.
Public entities have influence over the “what” and the “how” of many elements of community life: land use, budgets and taxation, fire and police, schools/education, utilities and rates, codes and permitting, leisure, streets and sanitation services.
A recent citizen perception study found that citizen perception was formed primarily by a personal experience with the governmental service provider. The nature of the interactions with government employees and agencies is critical to the way people judge an agency and government itself. Citizens expressed deep outrage and resentment when they were treated with disrespect. Citizens feel that some, but not all, governmental services are better in upscale neighborhoods. Despite their sophistication and interest in government, citizens feel powerless and say that cannot influence changes in how services are delivered.
What should be our focus? Community Engagement
Important elements of community engagement are inclusive, ongoing and builds trust and confidence. Biased attitudes decreased when people from diverse backgrounds were required to work cooperatively on a project and creates opportunity for relationship building and growth.
Law enforcement has realized the value of engaging the community when it developed community policing. Community policing is a form of community engagement that is specific to law enforcement. Community policing is a collaboration between the police and the community that identifies and solves community problems. The neighborhood patrol officer, backed by the police organization, helps community members mobilize support and resources to solve problems and enhance their quality of life.
Community engagement is important to better identify and understand community issues or concerns. This increases opportunities to provide context and balance to the discussion, there is transparency and increased trust, and more civil discussions and interactions. This all builds positive community relationships.
As public service providers, it’s not about the provider it’s about the citizens and customers. We need to understand that customers usually have two basic needs rational and emotional. The rational is the basic assistance requested. The emotional is how the customer “feels” about the service they receive. Emotions are directly related to the way customers rate your service. In many situations, customers want service and assurance.