Do invitation phone calls and/or additional postcards with standard mailings improve attendance at civic meetings?
Stakeholder participation in civic meetings is important for making good policy decisions. To figure out how to increase participation a field experiment was done in Ames, Iowa. The civic meeting was about municipal codes dealing with business aesthetics. 277 residents and business received notices about the meeting. They were randomly assigned to receive standard city notices for the meeting, or to receive an invitation phone call, a postcard, or both.
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What can government do to increase citizens’ interest in serving on city boards and commissions?
A small midwestern town administered a survey to its citizens. At the end of the survey they asked citizens to consider serving on a city committee and used different arguments to try to convince the citizens to serve on a city committee. Three different appeals were tried to increase interest in volunteering to serve. The key characteristic of the appeals is as follows (the full text is given in the appendix):
● Ask – simply request that citizens volunteer to serve on a board
● Public recognition added that those applying to serve would be publicly recognized on the city’s website with a special post.
● Training added that volunteers would be trained to be “more effective at obtaining your goals and minimizing your time commitment”
Offering training decreased interest in volunteering by about 8 percentage points. (About 18 percent of people receiving the baseline and public recognition appeals were interested in volunteering, but only 11 percent of the people who received the training appeal). The negative effect of the training appeal was largely concentrated among lower income residents.
Link to Study