Leveraging Technology as a Community Engagement Strategy
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The purpose of this paper is to explore how technology can be incorporated into traditional community engagement to increase the number of people who are engaged. The paper outlines what community engagement is, how society is changing toward more digital interaction, and who is left behind through these changes. Case studies of engagement in New York City, Chicago, and Minnesota are used to show how technology can be easily intertwined with traditional public participation. General ways of incorporating digital engagement into community engagement are suggested based upon traditional community engagement strategies. Lastly, using Atlanta as a case study, recommendations are provided for how technology can be incorporated into the Neighborhood Planning Unit System. When engaging with communities, local government and organizations should go where people are already congregating, whether physically or digitally. If a large community of people is already present on a certain social media platform, go to them and engage there. There is no need to reinvent the wheel when seeking participation from community members. Though the use of technology can bring more people to the figurative table, the digital divide can prevent traditionally underrepresented communities from having a voice. Moving forward, community engagement strategies should consider how to reach those people who are missed in traditional community engagement and digital engagement, including communities who are underrepresented and marginalized.