Civic Engagement Program of the Year: Gilbert, AZ Office of Digital Government
Gilbert, AZ Office of Digital Government
Gilbert avg. age:
The "Government Gone Digital" podcast, which allows Gilbert to share its best practices
A "Digital Roadmap" that aligns all city departments in strategizing for online and digital goals.
The Office of Digital Government (ODG) in Gilbert, AZ is responsible for over three dozen social media accounts, publishes a regular podcast and is part of establishing a "Digital Roadmap" to keep the town's government and its citizens engaged online.
Gilbert has a young and educated population — most residents would probably consider themselves digital natives. The ODG launched in 2012, with Dana Berchman as its Chief Digital Officer, to better connect the government to its residents. Since then, the department has grown to include six other employees, including two digital journalists and a dedicated social media strategist.
"We're very small, but we're mighty," Berchman said.
The ODG has oversight on all the town's social media accounts, including the police department, the fire chief, parks and recreation and the mayor. ODG also runs Periscope accounts, Instagram accounts and a Snapchat account. The plethora of social media accounts allow ODG to reach Gilbert residents on whichever platform they use most often.
Berchman said that Gilbert also reaches over 30,000 residents on Nextdoor, a private neighborhood app. She said Nextdoor was an especially valuable platform, since it verifies that the people that ODG is reaching are Gilbert residents, whereas anyone can like a Facebook page or watch a Snapchat story.
The ODG also produces a regular podcast, Government Gone Digital. Some episodes are specific to Gilbert — like discussing the town being named the most prosperous in the country — while others focus more broadly on topics like social media strategy, open data or crisis communications.
The podcast allows ODG to communicate not just with Gilbert residents, but to share best practices with other government leaders.
"I feel like people used to write a book about this kind of stuff," Berchman said. "This is my way of writing a book. It's our way of sharing what we're doing."
Part of Gilbert's success can be attributed to the way it has organized around the ODG. The town published a digital roadmap to clearly define what it wanted to accomplish and to keep track of those goals. The document also helps keep different departments across the government aligned.
For example, Berchman said, a local government would have a hard time creating video content for its residents if government employees can't access YouTube from work computers. Different officials and employees in government need to be in lockstep to keep accidental toe-stepping from happening.
"You need help across departments to make digital efforts successful," Berchman said.
By the end of the year, Gilbert ODG plans to launch a new open data portal for the town — with an anthropomorphized guide named Alex who will help users navigate the portal. Starting in early 2018, ODG will be redesigning Gilbert's website, too.
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