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Keep the community informed without breaking the bank
More and more governments across Canada are starting to roll out Open Government initiatives, which promise citizens more access to government data, and more opportunities to engage in the decision-making process. At the federal level, the Government of Canada has already issued its Action Plan on Open Government. Provincial and local governments are following suit; Ontario launched its own initiative earlier this fall.With government leaders increasingly focused on transparency, you may want to proactively start thinking about how your organization can ensure it’s disclosing information about the services it offers in a timely, cost-effective manner. Providing citizens with access and opportunity to evaluate this information will give them clarity and a general understanding of everything your entity has to offer. Plus, it can be a great way to involve citizens in improving the efficacy and efficiency of government programs and services—both at federal and local levels. If your agency is looking for ways to become more transparent without breaking the bank, keep reading.

Cost-effective communication methods
Educating the community about government functions, services and operations can be a daunting task—let’s face it, there’s a lot of data out there, and figuring out how to share it can be a chore. Here are some simple, cost-effective ways to share data with your constituents.

  • Email: Email can be a great, inexpensive way to reach the community. Emailing quarterly or monthly reports that disclose your agency’s services, their costs and who they are serving will provide your constituents with a detailed look at each program’s performance. If you have an existing email list, make sure it is up-to-date. Email validation services such as BriteVerifySM, DataValidation™ or LeadSpend, can help you clean your list and remove bounced or invalid email addresses. Whether you’re starting from scratch or looking to grow your list, you’ll want to continuously recruit new sign-ups. Invite citizens to join your email list by including a link to your email sign-up form on your website, in your agency’s email signature, on invoices, etc. Encourage people to sign up with a prize draw—an imprinted Portable Tablet Stand, Cord Keeper or microfibre screen cleaner make great giveaways and promote your agency.
  • Create Once, Publish Everywhere (COPE): COPE is a communication technique that sends one consistent message, via multiple channels (press releases, emails, social media, text messages, etc.) to a wide audience. If there are important changes to a program or service, consider utilizing the COPE method to send uniform communications that will reach as many constituents as possible.  Regardless of which outlets your agency employs, choose one consistent message that can be shared across the board.
  • Develop dashboards: Developing and sharing dashboards that display your agency or programs’ performance can provide citizens with helpful insights into program effectiveness. Graphically display performance comparisons, spending, demographics and more. Post this information on your website and direct people there by including the URL in emails, on invoices and with imprinted promotional items such as keychains and pens that can be distributed at community meetings.

Regardless of what you communicate and how, be sure important contact information is readily available for citizens to direct questions, concerns and feedback to. Be sure the information you provide is easily accessible, accurate and up-to-date—the more transparent you can be, the better.

Wesson, Matt. “How to Keep Your Email Lists Sparkling Clean.” Pardot. N.p., 8 Mar. 2013. Web. Retrieved 15 Oct. 2013.

How do I get more people to join my list?” MailChimp. N.p., 10 Oct. 2013. Web. Retrieved 15 Oct. 2013.

Coleman, Bill. “Old ways of local government communication not enough in today’s tech-driven world.” State and Local Connection. N.p., 15 Feb. 2013. Web. Retrieved 15 Oct. 2013.

Performance Dashboards.” USA.gov: The U.S. Government’s Official Web Portal. N.p., 02 Dec. 2013. Web. Retrieved 15 Oct. 2013.

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