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Ontario Supports Modernization of Small and Rural Municipalities

The Ontario government is providing up to $24 million to support the modernization of 224 small and rural municipalities across the province. This investment will help improve the delivery of critical programs and services that people rely on every day, while saving taxpayers’ dollars.

A total of 254 projects have been approved for funding under Intake 2 of Ontario’s Municipal Modernization Program. Municipalities will use the funding to find efficiencies and implement a wide range of initiatives to digitize, streamline and/or integrate programs and services with neighbouring communities.

The funding will help municipalities administer the cost savings measures in time for the 2022 municipal budget cycle.

Here’s the List of Municipalities who received funding for various Municipal Service Delivery & Efficiency Projects.

If you offer any of the services these municipalities are looking for, select the municipality you would like to work with and watch their websites for RFPs for any Third-Party Review or Implementation opportunities.  You might also want to watch muniSERV’s Find RFP’s section and/or bidsandtenders listings.

For more information on the Municipal Modernization Program and the June 30th announcement, click here.

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Are you a Winner or a Learner?

It seems to me that most of us are happy to just be agreeable when it comes to our perspective about how the world works. As individuals we find some sense of mental peace knowing that we think like the rest of a group.  

But I’ve always looked at things differently.  Sometimes I’m right and sometimes I’m wrong.  And when I am wrong, I’m never afraid to admit it.  I forgive myself and accept it as a learning experience.

As Lionel Ritchie recently told a contestant on American Idol, “When you win, you win.  When you lose, you learn.” 

It’s one thing to allow yourself this flexibility, but as a Manager or Leader do you extend this same flexibility to your team’s innovative ideas?   And, perhaps more importantly, if an idea fails, do you offer the same “forgiveness” for your team as you would for yourself?

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Municipalities Promoting Positivity During the Pandemic

As Ontario prepares to enter the second Provincial Emergency amid stay-at-home orders, many folks could use some positivity. Here are some lighthearted and fun projects that municipalities across Canada are undertaking to bring a smile to peoples’ faces. 

City of Waterloo

 

The City of Waterloo, Ontario has launched The Community Happiness Project. The Community Happiness Project aims to connect community members by sharing messages of hope, positivity, welcoming, and connectivity from community members and hopefully you!

 

From January to mid-February, residents can submit audio messages and images through an online portal. These will be assembled into signage that will be posted throughout the city and can be accessed through QR codes on mobile devices. Audio messages collected from the community will reflect Waterloo’s caring spirit and can include stories, poems, and notes to combat the feelings of isolation that have grown throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Town of Blackfalds

The Town of Blackfalds, Alberta is continuing the Lunch Box Pandemic Response Program into 2021. The Blackfalds Food Bank has now settled into their new home in the old Community Services Department Shop, at 5014 Waghorn Street, there is plenty of room to accommodate donations to support the Blackfalds Food Bank needs and the Lunch Box program.

 

The Lunch Box Program started in March 2020 due to the pandemic and increased local families’ needs to provide food for their children. Initiated to provide school-aged children with healthy lunches and snacks for school, the program quickly changed when schools shut down and were then expanded to include any local family with children, of any age. This pandemic response program fed 3,877 children in 1,061 families from March through December of 2020. 

 

City of Barrie

 

The City of Barrie, Ontario is running a fun, new contest to name the snowplows. Barrie has 12 snowplows that need names and is asking residents to come up with some creative and unique ideas.

 

Between now and January 22, 2021, Barrie residents are invited to submit their idea for a snowplow name for your chance to win a City of Barrie prize pack. The winning names will also be featured on the City’s Plow Tracker app and will be added to the snowplow machines for the 2021-22 winter season.

 

We love seeing municipalities coming together to enrich the lives of their citizens! We also love connecting municipalities with the businesses that provide the municipal goods and services that they need. Learn more at www.muniSERV.ca and join today. 

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The answers municipal governments have been looking for?

Municipal governments are facing multiple, growing, and overlapping challenges. Yet, there are tools available to address these challenges that are not being used to their full potential. Market-based policies such as well-designed user fees can help reduce traffic, cut water use, and improve solid waste management, while generating revenue that can be used to fill financial gaps.

These challenges include:

  • Municipal infrastructure is aging and faces a growing investment gap;
  • Municipalities have limited ability to raise revenues. Only so much can be raised from property taxes. They also often face constraints on debt financing; and
  • To attract people and investment, livability is key: cities must provide job and recreational opportunities, ensure affordability, make it easy to move people and products, and protect clean air and water.

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Top 4 Considerations to Save Money When Improving Citizen Services

By checking your own internal bias you stand a better chance of Finding the best solution

We all want to better our citizens’ services but, when pursuing this goal, what can we do to ensure we are spending the right amount of money on the right plan?  The only way is to look at your citizens, your goals and what you currently have to achieve the right balance between spend and results.

Here are four areas you should consider to make sure you are getting the most for your money.

1.       Understand first. 

·         When creating any plan, the first action should be to understand the needs and wants of your target.  Not all people will have the same issues as you. The only way to know is to ask your citizens, listen intently and believe them. This is particularly true when you think you have solved certain issues already.

·         In modern agile technology development, the practice is to rely on the” voice of the customer”. This is to ensure when the product is complete it meets the needs expressed by the potential buyer.  The same is true in finding the best solution for your citizens.

·         Remind yourself that you are not the citizen. Assume that you do not really know anything about your citizens’ needs. This way you will not try to prove your bias right or dismiss some expressed citizen needs as “not important” or “already solved”.

2.       Look at what you have today.

·         Look at the processes you have today that are at the heart of any of the issues identified by your citizens (e.g. a citizen is not notified when an issue is fixed – perhaps because a work order is lost after a job is completed so there is no record of it being closed).  Ask yourself what vehicles, tools, and processes you are using to meet your “citizen service goals”.

·         Are you using your website to get information out?  Do you have posters in community gathering spaces? Do you have a section every week in the local paper? Do you have a CiRM or a spreadsheet to track issues?  Do you have a written policy that helps all staff to address citizen issues quickly?  Do any of these create or solve the issue expressed by your citizens? These types of questions are key to success.

 

3.       List all potential solutions.

·         Improving citizen services may not require buying new hardware or software and spending a bundle on installation and configuration.  A successful solution, regardless of how great it is, may very well need to be coupled with bettering an internal process. Or maybe it is a simple matter of increasing the awareness of your website or creating posters to inform citizens about how you do things and why.  It might also be possible to improve services by repurposing technologies that you already have in hand (e.g. using your CRM in a unique way or changing access permissions so more people can answer the questions posed by citizens).

·         Listing solutions should not be an excuse to try to make current software do things it was not meant to do. Look at the process you want to have first then find the solution that best fits it.

·         Do not be afraid to look at human resource factors.  Maybe the answer is to better train staff in citizen resolution or conflict management (customer service skills). Maybe you need to ensure that all staff members know your policies and how they should be implemented.

4.       Consider technology solutions by task, not product name.

·         List your “service goals” and rate the importance of each of one. The best way is to break down your list into the following columns: “must have”, “good to have” and “nice to have”.

·         If you think that technology might solve some of the issues, list only the “service goals” you want your software to address, i.e. not what features or what brand will be the best solution.

·         Remember the technology may not need to be citizen facing to increase satisfaction. It might just enable an improvement in your processes to offer better, faster and more reliable citizen services.

If you consider these four areas, you will likely find a solution with that best fits your budget, and that will have the largest impact on your citizens.  By checking your own internal bias, you stand a better chance of making sure the right process, tracking and communication methods (internal or external) are part of your change, and the costs may well be less than you thought.

At AccessE11 we understand that paper systems and endless email chains are not productive when it comes to citizen services and support. There are too many opportunities for an issue to fall through the cracks, or for delays in responses to issues.

We promote instilling processes that make sense and that are easy to adopt so that everyone in the municipality can become a citizen support expert.  Please visit us at www.accesse11.com to find out more.

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Communicating and Listening Non-Judgmentally: Tools for Dealing with Mental Health Issues in the Workplace

I am finding as I train, coach and mediate that the issues in the workplace are becoming more complex. In recent events, some high profile individuals have come to the attention of the media as a result of their actions. We are finding mental health issues are more of a concern and the means to address them is less easy. In this article, I am attempting to share some tools you may want to engage in when speaking with your colleagues or employees.

Communication is not just saying words; it is creating correct understanding. Active listening is an essential skill in the communication process. Dr Marius Pickering from the University of Maine identifies four characteristics of empathetic listening.

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As Cities Get Smarter, Security Concerns Get Bigger, Trend Micro Research Finds

By: Jessie Bur January 19, 2017 | 11:02 am

More and more cities are employing “smart” technologies to improve communication with the public and reduce the burden on government services, but these technologies also open those cities to security and privacy dangers, according to a Trend Micro article released on Tuesday.

Smart cities are redefining the way we live and work. Blending cutting edge IoT (Internet of Things) technologies with virtualization, big data, cloud and more, they represent an urgent and ongoing attempt to overcome the challenges associated with rapid urbanization,” Ed Cabrera, chief cyber security officer at Trend Micro, wrote in a blog post. “There’s just one problem. These vast, interconnected technology systems also raise serious privacy and security concerns.”

According to Martin Roesler, director of threat research for Trend Micro’s Forward Looking Threat Research team, cities are particularly threatened by future IoT attacks because they pose an attractively visible target for hackers looking for maximum impact.

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What is IoT (Internet of Things) and How can it help government?

GovLoop Resources has produced a free guide on the Internet of Things (IoT) in Government.

What is IoT? How can it be used for impact in gov? How can you deploy it? 
 
Check out their new guide to move beyond the surface implications of IoT and understand the real value it can bring to government organizations. You will learn:

  • Key issues about the IoT by answering the most-asked questions.
  • Best practices from gov experts who play a critical role in IoT programs.
  • Valuable insights from interviews with various organizations using IoT.
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Municipal Innovators Community (MIC)

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The Municipal Innovators Community is excited to present the second annual MIC Conference:

September 27 & 28th in Burlington, Ontario

muniSERV is delighted to announce we have been invited to showcase our innovative site at the MIC Conference. Hope to see you there!

DAY ONE @ ROYAL BOTANICAL GARDENS

The day will kick-off with Drew Dudley, who will help you understand how everyday leadership can set the stage for a culture of innovation and creative thinking. Co-founder of Keyhubs, Vikas Narula will then reinforce the importance of influence and human connection. Finally, Jennifer Spear, President and Creative Strategist at Cleanslate Strategies, will deliver a unique workshop that will help you be a better problem solver, strategic planner and make innovation and creativity a reality in your workplace.

DAY TWO @ ART GALLERY OF BURLINGTON

Get ready to jump straight into ‘A Taste of White Space’ presented by Rick Boersma from Juice Inc. This workshop will demonstrate a cool way to capture innovation inspiration. The day continues with examples of innovative municipal programs and projects from across the country, presented by your municipal peers. Day two will wrap up with the CX Journey presented by Oracle. This is your chance to gain hands-on experience exploring this methodology and some real insight into the journey of your customers. 

 

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DocuPet New Innovation

DocuPet Logo VMunicipal Pet Licensing: The Need for New Innovation

Municipal pet licence compliance is very low averaging at 10-15%. This is because most pet owners see little incentive for licensing their pet(s) other than avoiding a fine from municipal By-Law officers. In addition municipal licensing programs are outdate and not overly accessible or convenient.

With pet licensing revenue being the main funding source for animal control the decline in licensing, and the ongoing and growing need for animal control, is leaving leaving municipalities with larger animal control budget deficits year after year.  This development has spurred the need for a new innovation surrounding municipal pet licensing in order to combat this trend.

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