24 Hours in Fort Lauderdale with ELGL & QScend

Posted on June 8, 2016

Follow along while I spend a whirlwind 24 hours in Fort Lauderdale, FL at the QScend Citizen Request Management Conference talking Citizen Engagement, road tripping, and challenges local governments face getting people engaged.

Fun Fact: The city of Fort Lauderdale is home to Toy Beeninga and Lee Feldman.


By Rebecca Olson – Twitter and LinkedIn

June 8, 2016

I will be traveling to Fort Lauderdale, FL to hang out with one of ELGL’s organizational members QScend Technologies, Inc.  (LinkedIn and Twitter) at their conference to talk Citizen Engagement. I am very excited since this is one of my passions…getting people engaged in our government process. And it fits in great with the entire conference where Qscend will be talking about Citizen Request Management systems and the latest trends, how to maximize social media, and get department buy in. Managing the requests of citizens who actually do take the time to contact their city hall is such an important part of gaining the trust of residents and providing quality services. I am excited to hear all about this topic and learn something new!

I’m also hoping that I happen to get a room over-looking the marina. Although I come from sailboatthe land of 10,000 lakes (there are actually 11,842 to be exact), its not quite the same as seeing the ocean.  I was hoping for some sunshine since the city averages 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, but according to the forecast and my luck, I may have to settle for the “sunny personalities” of the Qscend staff!

Either way, I am looking forward to sharing some perspectives on Citizen Engagement and hearing what other local governments are doing to engage their citizens, what roadblocks they have run into, and what has been successful for them and sharing that information with ELGL members.

Stay tuned to find out what local governments can learn about citizen engagement from planning a road trip!

June 9, 10:00 a.m.

I got to finally meet the wonderful Kristee that I have been corresponding with from Qscend today! She is just as friendly and awesome in person as she is over email. Unfortunately due to flight delays last night I missed out on what sounded like a really fun dinner. They took a water taxi to a restaurant along one of Fort Lauderdale’s waterways. Did you know that Fort Lauderdale is considered the Venice of America?? Very bummed that I missed out on that.

I was incredibly excited to talk to a room full of people who are just as interested and passionate about citizen engagement as I am. I am pretty sure that any one of them could have stood up and done the presentation themselves! However, then they would not have gotten to hear my wonderful story about how planning a family road trip is similar to how local governments tend to approach citizen engagement.


Stay tuned for an explanation on my road trip analogy and more updates on some of the challenges local governments face in creating meaningful engagement strategies and some of the great things I learned from others during the session!

11:20 a.m.

The Qscend conference planners sure thought of everything! They had boxed lunches brought in so that we could take them and go sit outside by the pool or lay in the hammock, or sit inside where the humidity wouldn’t turn your sleek, straightened hair into a lion’s mane in a matter of seconds.

Accurate image of me in Florida’s humidity

I promised to give you a little more information on my road trip analogy and how it is similar to how governments approach citizen engagement. Well, here goes my storytelling skillz… (and yes I just used a z instead of an s because I’m cool like that.)

During my presentation I related a story of a family I knew that had planned a summer family road trip vacation. I will spare you all the specific details, but it goes something like this:

Mom and Dad spend weeks planning a road trip that they think will be fun and exciting (and a wee bit educational also) for their 3 kids. Then they wait until just the right time to tell them what the plan is. (We’re headed to Washington DC for a fun and educational summer vacation!) They plan out the itinerary, schedule in bathroom breaks, sights to see along the way and games to play to keep the kids entertained. Then they pile in the car and about an hour into the 1200 mile road trip the first kids blurts out “I’m bored”. For those of you that are parents you will understand how quickly it went downhill from there after the other two kids chimed in. A few more “Are we there yet?” comments and finally dad bellows from behind the wheel “If I hear one more whine, I am turning this car around and we are going home!”


That’s when mom and dad decide to pull off at the next rest stop and figure out how to make sure this trip isn’t a nightmare for everyone. They decide to lay out all their plans for the trip (instead of keeping it a surprise for the kids) so they will have something to look forward to. Then they do something not every parent would do. They ask the kids what they want to do on their vacation. Turns out one kid wants to ride a roller coaster, one kid wants to see an actual mountain and the littlest one simply wants ice cream. (Ah the joys of being a toddler!) Now here is where the really unexpected happens…the parents hop on their phones and actually CHANGE their plans based on what they heard from the kids. They re-route their drive so they can go to an amusement park, and then swing a little further south so they can see the Appalachian mountains. Then, of course they find a spot for ice cream. How many parents would change their plans on the fly like that? I can’t guarantee I would. I might just make my kids suffer through my preconceived notion of fun. But lo and behold, they didn’t hear another “Are we there yet” or “I’m bored” until they were almost home. And the trip ended up being a very pleasant and memorable family vacation.

So, what does this have to do with governments and engagement you ask? Well, let’s deconstruct this a little. Imagine that the parents are your typical local government and they spend weeks planning how they want to do some citizen/community engagement on a project. They do all the research and get all their “ducks in a row” to have what they feel, is a successful community engagement activity. They know people will eventually get bored so they’ve prepared plans to address that. They prep and plan and finally the day comes and they think they are ready. They decide it is time to let residents know some of these plans…but not all of the details they’ve planned out. Then, when the residents show up and have their own ideas of how things are supposed to work, government gets upset and someone ends up bellowing from behind the wheel ready to turn the car around and go home. Both sides end up frustrated and most times just give up.leslie-knope-quotes-9-640x426

11:45 a.m. – Torrential Downpour

I’ve been assured that this downpour is simply “Summer” in Florida where it rains for about 15 minutes and then clears up. Not sure I believe that, but I’ve got nothing to really go on except my gut.

12:00 p.m. – Torrential Downpour is done

Ok, fine. They were right.

I’ve got a lot more to share but right now I’ve got to pack up and check out and head off to the airport. Needless to say, these past 16 hours in Fort Lauderdale have been incredibly fun, insightful and I am so glad QScend and ELGL gave me the opportunity to share my passion for Citizen Engagement here.

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