“Great Outdoors Colorado” invites citizens to prioritize spending through interactive online survey

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The people of Colorado love their great outdoors. The state is known for its rich outdoor resources, active residents, and recreational opportunities. Because of their passion for maintaining Colorado trails, parks, rivers, and open spaces, citizens voted in 1992 to create Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), a Trust Fund that invests part of the state’s lottery proceeds into the preservation of outdoor assets. Now, the organization is looking to residents for direction in forming a spending plan for the next 5-10 years.

Challenge: Meaningful Dialogue

GOCO owes its existence to the people of Colorado, so public opinion and feedback are essential to its success in channeling funds to the areas that matter most to residents. GOCO has always been in close communication with local governments, conservation groups, and the general public through regular meetings - but as times change, outreach strategies must be updated to reflect the habits and needs of stakeholders.

For GOCO, this meant it was time to re-think the typical ways of presenting content online. More residents are likely to give online feedback than attend a public meeting - but the challenge for organizations is in creating content that holds the attention of an audience and facilitates dialogue. Traditionally, plans and reports are presented as long, static PDFs - like GOCO’s current strategic plan - which are cumbersome for the typical citizen to absorb. Public feedback, if it happens at all, is completely separate from the online content, making it hard for organizations to get meaningful dialogue started. In formulating a spending plan for the upcoming years, GOCO sought a solution that would transform online content into an engaging experience, increasing citizen understanding and feedback.

Solution: Interactive Online Content

GOCO's website features easy-to-digest information.

GOCO's website features easy-to-digest information.

Breaking away from linear reports and static content, GOCO turned to the Digital Workshop app from the EngagingPlans Suite to create a vivid, user-friendly website that audiences can explore and interact with. Led by compelling infographics and short blocks of text, citizens who are not familiar with GOCO’s mission can easily discover essential facts about the organization and the focus areas for the budget (such as conservation, wildlife, or outdoor recreation). Interest-based navigation allows users to explore at their own pace and click for more information if they have time - so more people can get involved without having to wade through excessive amounts of content.

The interactive survey makes feedback simple and fun.

The interactive survey makes feedback simple and fun.

The main purpose of GOCO’s new engagement website is for the organization to gather the collective opinions of Colorado residents about priorities and projects. The Digital Workshop app makes it possible for public feedback to happen seamlessly, right alongside the published content. After learning a bit about the issues, participants can click through to the interactive survey, which is simple and gamelike. Users can click and drag to designate the priorities that matter to them - such as protecting farm and ranch land or providing nature education opportunities for kids. To encourage meaningful discussion, response boxes are provided with leading questions like “What do you think the biggest barrier is to achieving your top priority?” and “What’s a priority that you think should be on the list, but isn’t?” The survey experience could be completed in mere minutes, but folks with more time can get further involved on the next page of the site, which is personalized to facilitate in-depth responses about the top three priorities originally selected by the user. Upon completing the survey, participants can compare their responses to the others received, and also share their results and opinions via social media.

Benefits

The EngagingPlans App Suite brings online content to life for the organizations and agencies that need to communicate important information to citizens and stakeholders. For GOCO, this means Coloradans will see themselves as part of the process in deciding which outdoor projects are most important and how to best achieve the collective goals of the community. Responses that come through the website can be downloaded and analyzed, empowering GOCO to draw from the ideas of the people of Colorado and to build a plan that meets their needs. BrightPages sites are mobile optimized and the GOCO site offers Spanish translation as well, ensuring participation from the widest possible audience.

The interactive elements and bright graphics of GOCO’s website are attractive and engaging - like the other online content that people ingest daily. For organizations in charge of vital information and community-changing projects, the old methods are not as effective for presenting bright new ideas. Using the Digital Workshop app brought vitality to GOCO’s outreach efforts - a website as alive as Colorado’s love for the great outdoors.