Reaching residents to build a better response to COVID-19
In December 2020, with no end in sight to COVID19, the City of Red Deer, Alberta, had to decide on next steps they could take to protect the safety and wellbeing of their residents. Ethelo worked with Red Deer to find out how people were being impacted by the pandemic, how they felt about the municipal response so far, and how the city could better support the community.
Taking a community-wide temperature check
In December 2020, with no end in sight to COVID19, the City of Red Deer, Alberta, had to decide on next steps they could take to protect the safety and wellbeing of their community.
In order to ensure that their updated COVID response would address residents’ needs, Red Deer City Council first needed to take a community-wide “temperature check”.
Senior Communications Consultant
City of Red Deer
The city had previously used Ethelo for a budget engagement, so using it for a COVID engagement was the natural next step. Working with an arms-length company was a way for residents to be assured that the results were legitimate and unbiased.
Together, Ethelo and the City of Red Deer crafted a survey to find out how people were being impacted by the pandemic, how they felt about the municipal response so far, and how the city could better support the community.
Sara Alaric, Senior Communications Consultant, was part of the team responsible for engaging residents on the issue. “We really wanted to provide Council with as much information as we could, and also give the community an opportunity to have their say in a more controlled and constructive manner.”
According to Alaric, “We didn’t know what people were feeling other than what we had been hearing through social media, which is not always a true reflection of the community.”
Making sense of engagement data
Unsurprisingly, everyone had something to say. Over 3,000 residents participated and left over 6,000 comments, thanks in part to Ethelo’s add-on Outreach Services which used digital advertising methods to raise awareness for the survey among a diverse set of residents.
Analyzing all this data is a lot of work, Alaric says, and it’s not necessarily a skill that local governments have on staff. Without someone championing the data analysis, there’s a risk that survey results can fall off the radar of busy staff members.
That’s why she says Ethelo’s comprehensive post-engagement report was “the best part” of the engagement. It visualized the results for each question and selected the most representative and useful comments in a ready-to-share document that was circulated to City Council, internal departments, and on the public website.
While the content was provided by the City, the Ethelo team used their expertise in the art & science of survey design to help structure the questions and content more effectively.
“I appreciated the technical expertise and the thoughts on how to work through questions to get better responses,” says Alaric. For example, “We gave residents an opportunity to vent in the beginning, and then a chance to move on to more constructive feedback. We weren’t just asking what was wrong, we also asked how we could make things better.”
GETTING valuable COMMUNITY INPUT
Despite the hardships that the community had gone through over the last 9 months, Alaric was surprised by the amount of positive feedback and ideas that people shared.
“It was really valuable information,” she says. “We found a lot of good things we were doing that people appreciated, and new ideas for things we could do to make things easier for our community.”
She continues, “We found that people still wanted to be engaged and do things with their neighbours, but they maybe didn’t necessarily want to come to a recreation facility [for example] because they didn’t feel safe. So the results really did shift our service delivery and helped us understand what people were comfortable with.”