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As part of its 2008-2010 Strategic Business Plan, the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners directed that a study be conducted to develop recommended goals, strategies, performance measures and accountabilities to support the Board‟s vision for citizen involvement in community governance.

Board Vision

"We will have a local government that is highly efficient, effective, accountable, and inclusive…. Partnerships between government, the private sector, the faith community and others will bring together people from diverse backgrounds to address and solve community problems."

Although the Board‟s vision has been reflected through its Community & Corporate Scorecard, there is no defined business strategy and no accountabilities for achieving the desired result other than having various advisory committees appointed by the Board.

Community & Corporate Scorecard

  • Desired Result: Enhance Citizen Involvement
  • Corporate Strategy: Seek citizen participation in policy development and decision-making
  • Measures:
  • Advisory Committee Diversity
  • Citizen Satisfaction with Input Opportunities

Having citizen advisory committees remains important, but there are many other equally and/or ​more effective methods of enhancing citizen involvement. Based on available (and somewhat limited) performance measures, the level of citizen satisfaction with opportunities to provide input is below acceptable performance standards (red light) for the last two years, the only years that citizen satisfaction in this area has been measured.

Study Findings

Funded by private grants with in-kind support from Mecklenburg County, a study conducted by The Lee Institute identified several findings regarding citizen involvement in Mecklenburg County. A summary of the key findings are below (detailed findings are provided in Attachment
  1. The primary relationship between government and residents is that of service vendor/customer. The strong dynamic of this relationship inhibits the much needed relationship of residents as “owners” of the community and government as the "agent" of the owners
  2. Many people don‟t believe their involvement will affect change
  3. Mecklenburg County‟s current approach to citizen involvement is insufficient to achieve the Board‟s vision because involvement options are limited and inconvenient
  4. Citizen involvement begins with public awareness
  5. People want to be involved and engaged in their community and government but need help doing so
  6. People generally define their community as their neighborhood, so citizen involvement activities must included targeted efforts at the neighborhood level

A Vision for Engaging Residents

Based on the review of current thinking and scholarship on citizen engagement, along with considering the key findings from the study, a four-part continuum of engagement is being utilized to organize and provide structure to the proposed business strategy and implementation plan. The concepts of these four increasingly connected levels – beginning with Informing and Consulting, and concluding with Collaborating and Empowering.

Although Mecklenburg County has made a significant investment in engaging residents through Informing and Consulting (which will be continued and strengthened in this business plan), there has been a limited focus on and an investment in the more intensive levels of engagement of Collaborating and Empowering. However, citizen engagement through Collaboration and Empowerment provides the greatest potential for Mecklenburg County to help residents improve their lives and their community. These aspects of citizen engagement also create a two-way relationship between residents and government that is necessary to build and sustain effective governance within the community. This is a stronger partnership than the prevalent one-way relationship where residents primarily serve as “customer” of the “vendor” government‟s services. Although this customer-vendor relationship remains important, it is only one aspect of the multi-faceted partnership that should exist between local government and its residents.

​Consequently, this business strategy and plan for citizen engagement – called MeckConnect -- creates a comprehensive systems approach to increase the quantity and enhance the quality of engagement along all four parts of the citizen engagement continuum.