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CivicPlus Launches Its Own Local Govt. Consulting Service

The company, which sells digital tools to local public agencies, plans to use its own data, survey reports and analysis to help officials decide how to invest in technology, craft budgets and do other jobs. The man leading the effort explains the thinking behind it.

People sitting around a U-shaped table participating in a community meeting.
The 2023 Green Cincinnati Plan is informed by more than 40 meetings with neighborhood residents and 3,000 of their ideas for making their communities climate resilient.
(Groundwork ORV)
CivicPlus is getting into consulting.

The Kansas-based company that sells digital tools to local governments has launched its Community Engagement Consulting Service.

The goal: to provide local agencies, including cities, special districts and other operations, with insights and advice about how to improve services and communities.

According to Brenden Elwood, the CivicPlus vice president of market research who will lead the service, “scientific research” underpins the effort, meaning “national, regional and local survey-based research as well as qualitative interviews in the government space.”

That research stretches back two years, he told Government Technology via email, with techniques and methods similar to those used by businesses when they conduct consumer research or market intelligence.

“Much of this type of work and our approach is from behavioral sciences, which is, in fact, at the core of this service — measuring and understanding how and why a community or groups within a community think and feel about something is our passion,” Elwood said. “The academic rigor, experience and expertise we employ add integrity and confidence to the results.”

The company also is promoting Elwood’s own professional experience as a benefit of this service. He has worked as a parks commissioner and is a three-term city council member for North Bend, Wash.

He said the new service might end up competing against full-time consultancies, though the company also is open to working with “specialized consultants” to help clients.

“Our goal is to become strategic partners for our customers, which may mean using existing data from other studies, bringing in other relevant experts, and even partnering with firms working on behalf of our customers,” Elwood said.

The new service promises to add value to the larger CivicPlus business, he said. One main avenue for that will be via giving the company a deeper and richer understanding of what local governments need to work better. That, in turn, will influence product and service development.

Data gained through the consulting service will go beyond website search behavior, public records requests and complaints and concerns voiced by the loudest, most active groups of citizens.

“We are creating a higher-touch relationship with our customers,” he said.

He said the consulting service’s research likely will include recommendations about strategy and legislation, process improvements, advocacy, policies and budgets and technology investments.
Thad Rueter writes about the business of government technology. He covered local and state governments for newspapers in the Chicago area and Florida, as well as e-commerce, digital payments and related topics for various publications. He lives in Wisconsin.