How Bettendorf Used Resident Voices to Guide their COVID-19 Response

– By Brian Smith –

When COVID-19 began to hit Bettendorf, Iowa, officials knew they needed resident input to help guide the pandemic response.

Using Polco’s online civic engagement platform, City officials deployed a set of coronavirus-related questions developed by survey scientists at National Research Center (NRC). The response was overwhelming — more than 500 residents participated in the first four days.

“The City wanted to see what sort of challenges our constituents are facing in hopes of trying to offer them resources to cope with their concerns,” said Jeff Reiter, Bettendorf Economic Development Director.

Reiter said it’s important to use resources like Polco during this crisis to assist residents in a proactive manner, instead of responding reactively. City staff shared Polco insights with its City Council and used results to help guide decision making.

“The survey helped us validate a lot of what we were thinking was happening in our community,” he said. “It helped us support some decisions we were considering making about different action items, closures and responses with public works and things like that.”

A few of Bettendorf’s Polco results were very interesting, Reiter said. For example, respondents ages 60 to 69 are relying heavily on social media for Coronavirus-related information. Also of note: based on survey results, residents aren’t relying on local newspapers or radio as much as they are local television to receive COVID-19 information.

The City also gleaned data about what information residents need, the number of respondents in self-quarantine, and what workplace challenges respondents face, including whether their workplace had closed.

As was the case in Bettendorf, survey results generally should not be a surprise to local leaders if they are in tune with the needs of their community, said Damema Mann, NRC/Polco Director of National Engagement. They should, however, validate work already being done, especially in a public health crisis like the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 surveys from Polco/NRC provide crucial benefits. Local leaders can keep their finger on the pulse of local businesses while also monitoring residents’ physical and emotional health. In return, both businesses and residents can have an opportunity to be heard by key decision makers.

“In the case of COVID-19, local leaders have to make difficult decisions, including what needs to be sacrificed to keep their residents safe,” Mann said. “So it’s really valuable for governments to be able to reach out to their public with an easy-to-use online tool when in-person meetings aren’t possible to gather crucial information and to confirm essential steps toward recovery.”

Polco / NRC has developed these free-to-deploy online surveys to help local governments like Bettendorf collect quality community-level data in real time to inform Coronavirus outreach and response. The surveys are pre-loaded in Polco as drafts ready for your review, publication, and promotion.

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