Today’s public sector entities are expected to be managed for the public good. Key areas for ensuring good governance include budget openness, transparency and utilizing performance budgeting. Part of engaging effectively is building trusted channels of consultation and communications channels that allow the organization to connect with influencer groups, individual citizens and service users.
Citizens are often interested in becoming engaged in serious and substantive discussions about their local budgets, but can be intimidated to do so. By increasing public engagement in the budget decision-making process, it can allow people to set aside initial biases and opinions and to listen, learn, discuss, debate and compromise on a variety of issues and programs.
U.S. Government organizations by the numbers:
- 38,910 local governments
- 3,031 counties
- 19,519 municipalities
- 16,360 townships
- 51,146 special-purpose governments
- 12,880 independent school districts
- 38,266 special districts (Source: 2012 Census of Governments)
When it comes to often unpopular tax increases and/or benefit cuts, when citizens believe they have a say in how budgets are built, they will often:
- Agree to options that go against their own immediate self interest if they believe those actions will:
a) solve the problem, and
b) be shared fairly among all segments of the population and all parts of the jurisdiction
- Agree to raise their own taxes and cut their own benefits and services once they are convinced that there is no other viable alternative
- Continue to protect education and poverty programs, but still expect those parts of the budget to make small contributions budget cuts, if necessary.
To build capacity and develop the infrastructure necessary for public engagement in the budget process, budget information needs to be synthesized and condensed into plain language. Budget information should be provided in attractive visual formats that is easy to understand and appeals to a wide audience that includes both experts and individual citizens.
Questica OpenBook is a new, powerful data visualization tool that has been developed to promote stakeholder engagement using electronic media and Web 2.0 platforms. Like other Questica solutions, OpenBook was created with the public sector in mind.
OpenBook enables organizations to communicate their financials in a way like never before. Information is visualized in an array of graphs that can be shared via social media, embedded on websites, and accessed through mobile devices. Citizens can explore and discover information that was commonly hidden in spreadsheets.
OpenBook fully integrates with Questica Budget, a web-based budgeting tool that is currently used by over 200 public sector customers.
To find out more about how transparency and data visualization tools can help you develop a budget that promotes public engagement, check out the Questica OpenBook demo today.