Using 2020 to See Our Residents’ Perspective

Posted on January 10, 2020

Laura Dern in the Jeep in Jurassic Park

Today’s Buzz is brought to you by Jennifer Casey, Public Information Officer for the Town of Collierville, TN. Come @ me: Twitter & LinkedIn.

What I’m Reading: About to start reading Fair play: a game-changing solution for when you have too much to do (and more life to live) by Eve Rodsky.
What I’m Listening to: Savoring Dolly Parton’s America.
What I’m Watching: Catching up on YOU. (YIKES.)

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My family recently celebrated my daughter’s 7th birthday, and her older brother gave her a homemade card. It was full of your classic, birthday one-liners such as “you’re soooo old, but not as old as Papa!” (Papa is my dad, who is 67.) There was another good one on the cover that said, “Happy birthday! This is the end. Just kidding, open the card.”

After the comedic introduction, one sentence read, “This year, we will all have 20/20 vision.” It’s an easy comparison – relating goal setting, personal resolutions, and even eye health marketing to the year of 2020. The comparison also got me thinking about my topic for this article.

We spend most of our time focused on what we see, believe, think, feel, etc. Does everyone see things the same way I do? Probably not.

I wore snakeskin boots to work the other day. Did everyone see that as an appropriate choice of professional attire? Probably not.

When it comes to our communities, are we seeing what our residents see? Even if we are a resident of that community, probably not.

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In the spring of 2019, at the Government Social Media Conference in Nashville, I listened to a panel discussion about “Why Diversity, Inclusion, and Representation Matter on Social Media and More.” It was a meaningful, in-depth discussion that was completely eye opening; the pun is very much intended. One of the panelists, Elizabeth Hart, the Associate Director of Communication and Media Relations for the Tennessee Department of Health, said something that stuck with me:

“People want to see themselves on your pages. We {government} represent everybody, and they need to see on your social media pages, that you’re talking to them.”

This example is communication specific, but the concept should be reflected across all areas of local government as we make program changes, implement new technology, and plan our upcoming budgets. Many of our decisions are based on process improvement and conservative spending, which we believe works in favor of our residents. But do our residents always see it that way?

I had this idea in mind when I was setting goals for our current fiscal year. This supporting strategy of my first goal is the most important, because it involves seeing how my office can better serve our community:

  • GOAL: Evaluate and enhance communication methods.
  • STRATEGY: Develop relationships with community allies.

Community allies include obvious groups such as: homeowners associations, civic and religious organizations, media, business owners, and city employees. But they also include our children’s sports coaches and piano teachers, a couple down the street who have lived in the same home for five decades, a friendly cashier we frequently see at the grocery store, or the mail carrier that you may only get to see on the weekends. (My mail carrier’s name is Paul and he is an absolute delight, like our own neighborhood Mr. McFeely.)

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Don’t get me wrong, it can be exhausting to always be “on” – listening to everyone’s opinion from sanitation pickup to road repaving. Some days I am truly tired from an information overload, however, it’s crucial for us to listen and learn to see our residents’ point of view to help us make informed decisions that reflect the people of our community.

This year, I hope we all have that 2020 vision.

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