Today’s residents crave transparency from their governments. They want to know what projects are underway, what’s been done so far and what’s left to do. Sharing real data about your progress shows accountability and helps build trust and engagement.

But your community will only understand the impact you’re making when you share this information in a compelling way. How do you craft a story from a slew of status reports, budgets and project updates?

Maplewood, Minnesota is doing this right. They share real results in a straightforward way, showing how their progress fits into their strategic plan—and how it improves residents’ lives. Here’s how you can do the same.

1. Leverage technology to save resources

Good news: you don’t have to build a website from scratch. A public dashboard is a customizable web page that shares select planning and performance data. Maplewood tailored their public dashboard to suit the information they wanted to share.

2. Be selective in how much you share

The public doesn’t need or want all the information that leadership might use in decision-making. Choose an appropriate level of detail to share—one that tells your story without getting bogged down in too many specifics. Maplewood shared their overall progress for the six priorities in their strategic plan, as well as the key outcome indicators for each.

3. Give context on the planning process

Reports on progress resonate better if people understand the bigger picture. Maplewood gives a brief explanation of what strategic planning is and why they’re doing it—helpful information for members of the community unfamiliar with the behind-the-scenes planning process. 

4. Think visually

A picture is worth a thousand words. Graphs and other visual representations—even ones as simple as a colour-coded bar to show the status of a project—share information efficiently and effectively.

5. Stay up-to-date

Out-of-date progress reports suggest nothing has been done since the last update—or that communicating with the public isn’t a priority. Maplewood uses ourEnvisio’s Public Dashboard to make it easy for staff to keep information current and save the, saving them from spending time spent on compiling data in spreadsheets.

6. Find space to celebrate accomplishments

It’s important to highlight key achievements in your government's progress towards community goals—proof for residents that you’re working on their behalf. On your public dashboard, include a place where you can draw attention to milestones. Maplewood, for instance, has a box titled “Latest Update” for each of its six strategic priorities, giving them the flexibility to share relevant news and key wins.

7. Expand the story on social media

Few residents proactively check government websites, so it’s helpful to let them know when and where they can find progress updates on Facebook or Twitter. Social media is also a good place to give more color to your progress on projects with a lot of public interest. Maplewood, for instance, shared a video on both Facebook and Twitter to provide an update on the construction of a new community building.

Humans are hardwired to respond to stories, so it makes sense that the public responds best when you shape your data into a narrative. Tell a story with your data by connecting your progress to your strategic plan—and, most importantly, by showing how it impacts your community.

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