It’s no secret by now that Piqua, Ohio, is one of my favorite examples of a little city that consistently figures out How To Get It Done – thanks in part to my friend Bill Lutz, who has shown up on these pages several times. During a recent visit, (the same one where we talked about the amazing program-combining, commnity-determination-showing Fort Piqua Plaza), I had a chance to learn more about a relatively new program – and one that won’t win headlines, but I think is making a real difference in this community’s resilience and civic engagement.
The Citizen Government Academy takes those spend-a-day-with-your-friendly-local-public-servant activities and turns it into something transformative… for both the residents and the city. Imagine how differently your residents might feel about the quality of your local government services if they got a chance to try some of your toughest jobs for themselves, like:
- Chasing an armed suspect (in a simulator),
- Driving a snowplow through an obstacle course,
- Mowing the park
- Writing a grant so that it has a chance of being funded
You want your residents to understand why you needed that sewer repair truck with the camera that crawls through the pipes and shows you where the leaks are? You want them to trust you the next time you need a big expenditure like that? Easy… show them what it does and what return on investment the community is getting. All the City Council briefings in the world will never have the power of just letting a few people who care look through that monitor.
The power of the Citizen Academy lies in something simple and obvious, but almost never used in the local government context: people learn by doing, not by hearing or reading. If you want your residents to actually understand the value of your services, and understand it in a way that emboldens them to help support good government, show them. Show them what you do and how you do it.
Nuff said. Go listen to Bill. It’s 18 minutes you will be glad you heard… even if you don’t get to drive the snow plow.