This experience was submitted by the Austin, Texas, as a candidacy for the 10th IOPD Award.
Here you can find the file of the candidacy
In January of 2015, the newly elected Council began their terms in office and proposed to change the way council meetings and committees worked in order to increase efficiently in conjunction with the changes of the Council structure. Previously, Council meetings carried on very late at night with inconvenient hours that made it difficult for residents to attend and voice their opinions on major decisions. The restructuring would emphasize the use of Council committees to hold these public hearings before items reach the full City Council. The proposal plan included an altered approach to adding items to Council meeting agenda and a list of possible Council standing committees. More generally, the proposal also included better planning and management of the Council agenda to avoid late night meetings, more transparency into committee and commission records and a longer-term investigation into best practices for public engagement.
In order to make it easier for the public to view and share their thoughts about the proposal with the Mayor and the Council, the City hosted an Interactive Town Hall meeting jointly facilitated by the Community Engagement team with multi-platform engagement forums.
Those in attendance to the special called council meeting on January 22nd were given text-in phone codes for a text poll survey or paper questionnaires with same survey questions for equal participation opportunities. The council presented a brief presentation about their proposal and then audience members could raise their hands to ask questions. In addition to the in-person attendees, fifty-thousand Austin home phone numbers were automatically dialed and asked to participate in the live meeting to bring a larger sample base of voices to the Town Hall. People who choose to listen in through the phone call could even ask questions and participate in the two-way conversation. Besides attending the council meeting in person or through the phone-in method, Austinites could engagement and provide their feedback through other virtual channels at their convenience.
Virtual Town Hall
Austinites could tune into the live broadcast on TV, radio or online via www.atxn.tv . Viewers could even provide commentary by tweeting #myatxgov or calling call 18884001932 (En Español: 18884009342.) All texted in or tweeted in comments would be displayed on a screen for in house attendees to see as well.
Speak Up Austin
Before, during and even after the meeting, community members could provide feedback on forums established online regarding the specific changes to the Council Meetings on www.SpeakUpAustin.org
Additionally, people could call 311 and share ideas about the #myatxgov project proposal or use the free 311 phone app and share their comments on the Community Project Feedback section prior to the voting on January 29th.
In addition to the community members attending the meeting in-person, there were 3,943 residents (3,814 in English, 129 in Spanish) who accepted the invitation to participate by phone.
Austin 311 feedback (available before, during and after the meeting) accessible here à https://www.austintexas.gov/sites/default/files/files/City-Council/Restructure_Feedback_Memo_311Comments.pdf
Speak Up Austin Forum (available before, during and after the meeting) accessible here à https://austintexas.granicusideas.com/discussions/enhancing-public-participation-at-city-council
Twitter Participation Report (available both before, during and after the meeting) accessible here à https://www.austintexas.gov/sites/default/files/files/City-Council/Restructure_Feedback_Memo_TwitterComments.pdf
Telephone Participation Report (from the live interactive Town Hall 1/22) accessible here à https://www.austintexas.gov/sites/default/files/files/City-Council/Restructure_Feedback_Memo_TeleponeReport.pdf
Live Text-In Poll Report (from the live interactive Town Hall 1/22) accessible here à https://www.austintexas.gov/sites/default/files/files/City-Council/Restructure_Feedback_Memo_LivePollingReport.pdf
Paper Survey attached
Ultimately, the January 22nd special called Council Meeting ended up being a success by municipal standards with a full house and high levels of virtual engagement.
In addition to all of the platforms coordinated by the City of Austin, outside community organizations and media outlets also provided event coverage (including, but not limited to):
On January 29th, 2015 during the City Council Meeting, agenda item #26 was passed that approved changes to the meeting procedures and council committee structures, with sponsorship by ten council members. In addition to this measure, item #23 was also passed which approved the creation of an Engagement Task Force which would measure the success of the new committees, current City of Austin best practices in engagement, as well as other cities engagement techniques over the next six months to ensure the lasting successful effects of the Interactive Town Hall.
Full video, transcript and agenda of the meeting is available here à http://www.austintexas.gov/department/city-council/2015/20150122-spec.htm