Young people play a vital role in shaping our communities. Their participation in community activities like volunteer programs, advisory boards, and environmental initiatives fosters their personal growth and contributes to our community’s vibrancy and resilience.
However, when youth engagement is low, we miss out on their unique perspectives and energy, and they miss opportunities for skill development and civic engagement that help cities thrive.
An estimated 60 percent of all rural youth and 30 percent of urban and suburban Americans live in “civic deserts,” where there are few or no opportunities for people to engage in civic activities, such as meeting to discuss issues in the community. This lack of engagement contributes to a lack of trust in government, which reduces voter turnout and can create a vicious cycle of even lower participation over time.
Often, the issue stems from these younger residents feeling disconnected from their governments, seeing the government as a distant organization they have no influence over. In other words, when governments can provide better communication options to and from young residents, they’re more engaged and informed, and participation goes up.
While not every challenge can be addressed with improved communication technology, solutions like a Virtual City Hall can give local governments a massive leg up for challenges such as:
- Communication Barriers: Traditional communication methods may not effectively reach or engage young people.
- Time Constraints: Busy schedules can limit young people's availability for community activities.
- Interest Alignment: Young people may perceive community activities as uninteresting or irrelevant.
- Accessibility Issues: Physical and digital access to community activities can be a barrier for some.
A Virtual City Hall, with its digital-first approach and 24/7 accessibility, offers a more effective way to engage youth and foster their active participation in community life. But how?
Encouraging Youth Participation with a Virtual City Hall
A Virtual City Hall (VCH) is an online platform that facilitates communication and information flow between governments and citizens, empowering community engagement while making your government much more efficient.
This flexible platform can be used for many purposes, from hosting information about city services to answering questions from citizens, collecting feedback from the community, and keeping the community informed with advanced notification tools.
Here’s how a Virtual City Hall enables young people to be more involved in community activities:
24/7 Accessibility for All Citizens
A Virtual City Hall provides round-the-clock access to resources and services. This flexibility allows young people to engage in community activities at their convenience, fitting participation around their busy schedules.
For example, they could sign up for a volunteer program, provide feedback on a community project, or access educational resources whenever they have free time.
An in-person town hall meeting might not attract many young residents, but give them an online forum, survey, or discussion board for a pressing issue and you’re providing them with a chance to easily participate in government decisions.
Effective Communication Across All Channels
In the digital age, young people are more likely to engage with information that's readily available on their smartphones or computers. A Virtual City Hall leverages this trend by offering omnichannel communications.
Whether it's an email, SMS, social media post, or app push notification, you can reach young people on the platforms they use most. This can significantly increase awareness and interest in community activities.
Personalized Engagement and Better Inclusivity
With comprehensive contact information and campaign management tools, a Virtual City Hall allows for personalized outreach. You can tailor your communication to align with the interests and needs of young people, making community activities more appealing and relevant.
For instance, if a group of youths shows interest in environmental initiatives, you can directly inform them about upcoming tree-planting events or recycling programs. If they set their preferred language as Spanish, multilingual support means they can get those notifications in their own language.
Data-Driven Insights for Smarter Decision Making
With the reporting and analytics capabilities of a Virtual City Hall, you get valuable insights into youth engagement. You can understand what types of activities are most popular, when young people are most likely to participate, and what barriers may be preventing their involvement.
This data can inform strategies to increase youth participation (and overall city engagement, of course), such as scheduling activities at more convenient times or addressing specific accessibility issues.
Empowering Youth with Modern Technology
A Virtual City Hall can serve as a platform for young people to voice their ideas and concerns, and to effortlessly keep up to date with what’s happening in their community.
By involving them in decision-making processes, you can make them feel more connected to their local government and community. This sense of ownership motivates people to participate more actively in community activities and simultaneously builds more trust in the government.
Bear in mind the implementation of a Virtual City Hall should be done thoughtfully, with a focus on user-friendly design, security, and ongoing support. With these considerations in mind, you can leverage the power of digital technology to foster a new era of civic participation among the youth in your community.
While citizen engagement software like a Virtual City Hall can transform the way your government connects with citizens, how do you know which software solution is best for you? Check out our guide to finding the perfect citizen engagement software.