Beginning in 2010, the Pinellas County Administrator, along with the County’s Executive Leadership Team began emphasizing the importance of providing evidence-based services to citizens. Their means of gathering citizen sentiment had historically been very fragmented, from town halls, to department phone calls, and online submissions. These mediums ran the risk of giving weight to the “loudest voice.”
This period in history was a particularly trying time for local government. Budgets were stretched thin and there was the constant challenge of having to offer continued citizen support with reduced resources. As a result, the role of the survey was to facilitate budget decisions by pinpointing operational changes—service locations, hours of operations, changes to service delivery, additional fees, etc.
HCP developed the questionnaire, fielded the survey, analyzed the results and reported the findings to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). Feedback from this survey, coupled with internal meetings and town hall feedback facilitated numerous County decisions that helped the organization reduce its budget, but still continue to provide uninterrupted citizen service. An added benefit to conducting this research is the sense of involvement that it gave the citizens; their feedback is valued—a sentiment that can help to increase citizen satisfaction.
In 2012, post-budget cuts, the County shifted focus to citizen values and how well the County was aligning with their expectations and gaining their trust and confidence. The County formed a Communications Cross Functional Team to collaborate on the development of the next year’s study. Members of this team represented a sampling of various departments throughout the County, and thus reflected well on the diversity of the organization. Including representatives of many departments was critical in that the results helped guide the launch of the County’s visioning efforts for its long-term strategic plan.
The study has been repeated every subsequent year, each one helping to aid in the understanding of the needs and demands of the County’s residents.
In accordance with the direction provided by leadership, it was and continues to be of paramount importance for Pinellas County to build citizen trust and confidence by striving to provide evidence-based service. HCP looks forward to continuing to support the County’s efforts in maintaining a “pulse” on citizen sentiment and actively collaborates with internal teams and executive leadership to develop scientifically-reliable studies and actionable uses for the data.