Investing in the relationship of trust between the city and its residents is an investment in prosperous future
June 13, 2017
City administrations are faced with distrust and dissatisfaction of residents, which represents a major obstacle to successful implementation of city projects and causes unnecessary additional costs.
The economic crisis has led to loss of trust in national and local administrations throughout the world. According to the OECD, only 40% of people trust public administrations. As a result, people have a negative attitude towards objectives, actions and projects of public administrations. Therefore, one of the key challenges for the successful future development of cities around the world is building a relationship of trust with the residents.
Building this relationship of mutual trust is a long-term process of confrontation of interests and pursuing compromise. During this process, cities must act responsibly, open up and share their relevant information and data with the residents, communicate with them, and – most importantly – consider public opinion in decision-making, and program and project planning.
This process of gaining trust should proceed in the most convenient and cost-sustainable manner for both – the city and its residents as well. This can be achieved by using appropriate ICT tools. By using the internet and (smart) mobile technology, the city can easily and cost-effectively share relevant information on the development of the city and key development indicators to its residents, provide insights into the progress of projects, investments and budgetary spending or an insight into the decision-making processes.
Local governments can use the internet and mobile technology to inform citizens about upcoming meetings, publish the meeting agendas with supporting documentation, publish the minutes of meetings, etc. They can also provide online access to meetings via live video streaming, which allows monitoring of meetings to anyone by using the computer, tablet or smartphone. The described methods provide citizens with information on key management processes and monitoring of the city government decision-making from the comfort of their home.
However, openness and transparency are just the basic prerequisites of building a relationship of trust. Residents, who gain relevant information on the development of the key city challenges through open public administration methods, have to have the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process. The role of local government is not only offering this option to its citizens, but to actively encourage them to participate as well.
According to the cities’ experience, use of technology is necessary for a successful communication to a certain extent, however it is not a sufficient solution in all cases. Appropriate means of communication between cities and citizens depend on whether the goal of communication is to search for views and ideas associated with a more simple and everyday challenges or with more strategic development issues that require comprehensive and prolonged coordination. Especially for the latter, the cities’ experience show that such technology supported communication was too impersonal and did not bring the expected results. Although time consuming, it is necessary to communicate with the residents on a personal level occasionally, for example to complement the online surveys with consultations, workshops and trainings in the field.
However, to resolve everyday issues and short-term challenges, Internet and mobile technology has become an indispensable communication tool. Residents are able to report problems, opinions and ideas to the relevant decision makers in city government on a daily basis. Local governments are always up to date with the interests of the citizens, detect areas of dissatisfaction timely and are able to react accordingly. Appropriate reaction of city administration also means taking into account the voice of the citizens. When the city opens up to its citizens and establishes effective channels of communication, but does not take into account their opinions and suggestions, mutual trust is destroyed.
Cities should be aware that properly informed residents who have an interest to participate in decision-making add an important value to the city. Such residents contribute new and innovative ideas. A city who is aware of the interests of its residents can make better decisions, allocate investment funds more effectively, and carry out the most relevant projects. Therefore, investing in the process of building mutual trust and appropriate technological tools should not be seen as a cost, but rather as an investment in a better future.