North Star #5
Building Community Trust & Power Through Engagement
NYC government will be transformed into a national model of collaborative, inclusive, and accountable governance that strengthens democracy, expands civic engagement, and enhances civic trust.
What We Heard: City government should aspire to ground all decisions in community input to build trust and community power.
- Need for more transparent communication: Building more transparency and accountability in city government about operations and decision making, was elevated as a priority in 13% of the Community Conversations, and was the top priority for survey respondents when asked what changes would make it easier for residents to participate in civic engagement opportunities.
- Increase engagement efforts and outreach: Conversations with residents revealed community members are eager to participate in the decision making process, but wanted more follow up. One resident emphasized the impact of community engagement initiatives like NYC Speaks and wanted to see even more efforts on the part of the City to interact with residents: “My voice would be heard and I would actually get a chance to change things in my neighborhood.”
How the City is Already Taking Action
New York City has a tradition of robust civic engagement efforts, including:
- In 2018, NYC residents approved a ballot measure establishing the Civic Engagement Commission. The Commission’s charge is to partner with community-based organizations and civic leaders, lead the City’s Participatory Budgeting process, increase awareness of City services, assist New York City agencies in developing civic engagement initiatives, develop plans to consider language access needs, and provide technical assistance to local community boards.
- The NYC Public Engagement Unit deploys community organizing tactics to re-envision how the City provides services to its most vulnerable communities. PEU takes a grassroots approach, meeting residents at their doors, on their phones, in their social media feeds, and in their communities to provide tenant, housing, and health care enrollment support.
- NYC Service, a division of the Office of the Mayor, incubates NYC Youth Leadership Councils (YLCs) to address the disconnect between young people who are impacted by city issues, but do not have adequate input in solving our city’s issues. In all five boroughs, YLCs inspire youth to shape policies, practices, and services by providing youth a space to team up with others, share ideas, create solutions, and put these solutions into action with support from city agencies, schools, and organizations.
The Adams administration, in partnership with elected officials, community leaders, and other non-government partners, is committed to building out New York City’s civic infrastructure – the practice, process, support and data that facilitate inclusive, accessible, consistent and accountable community engagement – for more effective, responsive governance and a more robust democracy.
- The Mayor will appoint a Chief Engagement Officer to increase engagement opportunities across City agencies, coordinate and align engagement efforts, track and measure impact, use engagement findings to inform policies and programs, and hold agencies accountable to community engagement standards and goals. Almost every New York City agency engages New Yorkers, however, under-resourced, inaccessible and siloed efforts lead to misinformation and frustration – further alienating New Yorkers from their government. The Chief Engagement Officer underlines the value of community engagement as a core function of NYC government.
- The Mayor’s Office of Engagement will provide technical assistance and resources to and regularly convene City agency engagement teams to improve engagement efforts, increase engagement opportunities, and support consistent interagency collaboration.
- The Mayor, in collaboration with the Comptroller, and Public Advocate will launch NYC Speaks 2.0 – an annual, citywide, satisfaction & well-being survey. While there are plenty of metrics and open data on the outputs of City agencies and government operations, there has yet to be a sustained effort to measure outcomes. One of the most direct ways to measure those outcomes is to simply ask New Yorkers. From the senior citizen whose commute to the corner store is impeded by a disintegrating sidewalk to the family struggling to safely navigate New York City’s shelter system, the lived experience of city residents, especially those facing the most challenges, must be a focal point in our evaluations of government performance and policymaking.
- The Mayor, Comptroller & Public Advocate all agree that the measure of our collective success as a city is the satisfaction of New Yorkers – not only as voters, but as parents, students, workers, and neighbors. We must measure what we value – and we value a city that works and cares for its residents. NYC Speaks 2.0 will be a first-of-its-kind annual measure of the lived experience of New Yorkers, rounding out a data picture that includes on-the-ground qualitative data to which we will all hold ourselves accountable.
- Number and demographic diversity of NYC residents attending public engagement events
- Number of City staff trained on public engagement approaches and methodology
- Number and type of engagement opportunities across agencies and per agency
“An initiative such as NYC Speaks that opens the dialogue to overlooked and underrepresented people is a superpower. We are always looking for helpful ways to reach out to the community. We had a great turn out to the conversations that we hosted. Our community voices will be heard as it relates to some of the policies in the city we live in. People were so appreciative that policy makers took the time out to hear their concerns. I hope to see this become a staple.”
“NYC Speaks provided a platform for stakeholders with disabilities to address their concerns directly. Center for Independence of the Disabled, NY serves New Yorkers with disabilities in each of the five boroughs and are always looking for better methods to advocate for our community. This is the first time in years that I have seen that opportunity given to the public, especially in such an intricate manner.”