The COVID pandemic and subsequent government measures have led to an unusual amount of scrutiny from the general public. People looked to their government for leadership, clarity and certainty and were often left frustrated and disillusioned. It’s possible that there has never been a greater opportunity to build public trust in government... or a greater opportunity to lose existing trust.
Public sector organizations often struggle to communicate in a transparent and timely matter. At times, data does not reach communication officers fast enough due to manual processes, and public trust is eroded due to a disconnect between what they were told and what the latest data is revealing. In other instances, a lack of communication about how a service will be delivered results in frustration and disillusionment.
When it comes to engaging the public, outreach is often done on an as-needed basis. How can the public provide their feedback when not explicitly solicited? And how can we avoid engagement fatigue felt by groups such as indigenous organizations, where the sporadic nature of engagement is typically onerous on communities? How can we close the gap by continuously keeping denizens connected with public service activities, rather than only at sparse times in a project’s lifecycle? These are key questions that will drive our discussion of strategies for addressing eroded trust and lost faith in government processes.
This talk is aimed at anyone who is involved in public sector program delivery, information-as-a-service or data-as-a-service. We won’t propose a quick fix; there isn’t one. Instead, we’ll identify component elements of mistrust by comparing approaches to communication with the public to show how differences in efficiency and digital capacity can result in drastically different experiences for denizens. Attendees will hear lessons that are grounded in theory and supported by relevant digital government case studies.
Research about building trust tells us that reliability and transparency are the keys to establishing and retaining trust. We’ll dive into how public sector employees can leverage these insights to help those that they serve. Core to our exploration in this talk will be an emphasis on how a failure to reflect on past mistakes can compound mistrust, sometimes irrevocably. Drawing on CivicTech theorist Leonard Krieger, we’ll propose some antidotes to organizational amnesia and some strategies for building empathy through acknowledgement of historical engagement and efforts. Attendees of the talk will leave with actionable ways to bring this to their work with an emphasis on continuous engagement, as well as a core resonating appreciation for what the power of denizen engagement can do for us all as a collective society.