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Citizen Engagement Companies Partner on Budgeting Software

Bang the Table and Balancing Act are selling their software together, offering local government customers a platform to get citizens involved with detailed, do-it-at-home budget simulations.

When the Australian company Bang the Table was planning an update of its citizen engagement platform, it faced the common dilemma of whether to build new software from scratch or incorporate competing innovations.

Seeing a budget-planning tool better than its own, it chose the latter, announcing a strategic partnership last week through which Bang the Table’s EngagementHQ platform will integrate with Balancing Act software, produced by the Denver-based Engaged Public. According to a news release, the result will be a new version of EngagementHQ that combines its own citizen engagement platform, now used by about 500 clients worldwide, with Balancing Act, which allows citizens to participate in their local government’s budgeting process with easy-to-read graphics and simulations.

Bang the Table CEO Matthew Crozier said both companies are founded on community engagement in the gov tech space, so it was a natural fit and a mutually beneficial way for Bang the Table to replace its own Budget Applicator tool within EngagementHQ.

“We thought rather than throw all of our development budget into rebuilding this thing, why not go talk to the people who do this best, and see if we can build a partnership? Thankfully they were receptive to the idea, and we teamed up,” he said. “We think it’s the best way for clients to talk about budgets with their communities.”

Crozier said cities could find Balancing Act helpful when they need to raise taxes or utility rates, which often require them to demonstrate the need. But he said the software is also valuable for helping people understand the decisions their elected officials make every year during budget season.

“We know that cities go and talk to their communities about the broader budget, and it’s complex, and quite often it’s hard for the community to grasp. It’s not unusual to find that people want that new swimming pool and they want the new park, and they also want to pay less taxes,” Crozier said. “What Balancing Act does really well is allows people to make their own trade-offs and try and balance their own budget. It really helps people, not only to participate in making decisions, but to understand at a deeper level what governments are grappling with when they try and put budgets together.”

Crozier said EngagementHQ already had several integrations with email and other tools, and he anticipates a lot more to come. It’s a strategy similar to Mark43’s in the public safety space — build an ecosystem with competitors or adjacent technologies, instead of trying to invent them all yourself.

“This is the first partnership we’ve announced in what is going to be a much broader partnership ecosystem,” he said. “We’re spending a bit of time looking around the world and finding the absolute best solutions for different aspects of community engagement. We feel EngagementHQ is the best platform for overall community engagement, but where there’s some aspect of community engagement where others are focusing and doing better, we intend to bring those into our ecosystem, into our marketplace and make them available to our clients.”

Andrew Westrope is managing editor of the Center for Digital Education. Before that, he was a staff writer for Government Technology, and previously was a reporter and editor at community newspapers. He has a bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and lives in Northern California.