Skip to Main Content
Resource · Blog

How City & County Governments Can Efficiently Monitor Policy Developments in Peer Governments Near and Far

Back to resources listing

City and county governments face a slew of ongoing and emerging challenges in 2022, from finding ways to grow and diversify their economies in the midst of a pandemic to adapting their communities to new severe weather patterns, and many others.

While each city faces a unique combination of challenges, few issues are unique to any one location — and elected officials can save a ton of time, money, and frustration by learning from neighboring and peer governments.

But to learn from and collaborate with other communities, government officials have to proactively inform themselves about local policy discussions happening around them. And keeping up with more than a few communities at a time is no small task.

Typically, there are three methods government officials use to stay informed:

  • Set Google Alerts around key topics. While this method typically will catch any relevant news coverage, the coverage itself is often too limited to provide a complete picture of what’s happening in local government. The coverage priorities set by editors often don’t match up with the priorities of local officials, so many topics local officials want to monitor never make it into the newspapers.

  • Wait for policy briefs from municipal leagues. While a statewide association will do its best to keep members informed about emerging trends, there’s always a delay between the time the association finds out about an issue and when they publish a brief. And since these kinds of updates come from multiple associations representing a variety of geographies, there isn’t a searchable database where all of those digests can be found.

  • Manually track down meeting minutes and agendas from every governing body they want to monitor. While it’s possible to get public documents for most communities emailed to you directly from the clerk’s office, the volume of documents can quickly spiral out of control. If you’re attempting to monitor one county and all of the municipalities within its borders in a medium-sized metropolitan area, you could be receiving documents from 30 or more communities. And there’s no way to filter out irrelevant documents that don’t mention your topics of concern.

The amount of legwork it takes to keep up with local policy discussions manually is unsustainable, inefficient, and ineffective. When relying on these methods, local governments still end up missing opportunities to collaborate, reinventing the wheel, and wasting resources pursuing nonstarter policies.

This is where a comprehensive local legislative tracking service and a centralized platform for public policy research like Curate can be a tremendous asset.

Curate collects meeting minutes, agendas, planning, and other documents from more than 12,000 local government entities and scans them for relevant mentions of hundreds of topics.

Users define the topics and locations they want to monitor and receive email reports that keep them up-to-date on the latest discussions happening across every region they’re tracking.

The fragmentation of public documents means people who need to stay in the loop about public policy discussions happening across large geographic areas are unable to do it on their own.

But with local policy monitoring software, elected officials and policy researchers at the local government level can readily access the public documents of any city or county in the country.

Here’s how it works.

Keep Up with Policy Discussions, Gauge Public Opinion, and Get Early Warning of Emerging Issues

Curate uses advanced data collection techniques to find public documents like meeting minutes and agendas as soon as they are uploaded to the web. Using machine learning, Curate analyzes the content of those documents to identify only the relevant mentions of key topics.

You receive real-time alerts for the specific topics you want to monitor, and you can review all your topics through an online dashboard.

Automatically track emerging issues at an unprecedented scale

Curate’s proprietary algorithm automatically scans all documents for mentions of more than 400 topics, covering most issues of local government out of the box. To scale with the rapidly changing issues facing local governments, custom topics can be added by request.

Popular topics to track include:

For each account, Curate only flags documents that contain relevant mentions of the chosen topics, so you can track dozens (or even hundreds) of cities without getting overwhelmed by the volume of documents.

For example, in the screenshot below, the user is interested in documents that mention topics pertaining to Land & Wildlife Protection across the entire state of Wisconsin. In the time period represented (which for this example was the previous two months) Curate found 137 documents across 75 locations.

Screenshot 1

If any of the topics you’re following appear in a document from a community you’re following, the document will be added to your dashboard and will appear in your email report.

Research public attitudes about policies proposed in other cities

Being able to accurately predict how the public will react to a particular policy proposal can save communities thousands of dollars in staff time. If you know what kind of opposition you’ll face from whom, you can plan your strategy for building public support for a particular policy, or know when to abandon an idea that has no chance of success.

Curate’s database provides several ways to get this kind of intelligence from other communities.

First, you can search for a topic across the entire country and note which cities come up. You can reach out to the staff or elected officials in those communities to hear their perspectives on the policy-making process.

Without Curate, you wouldn’t even know which communities had considered the policy, especially if it never made it into law.

For example, conducting research in Curate, it would be found that 12 communities around the country discussed Dig Once policies (a hot topic related to expanding broadband access) between Dec. 1, 2021 and Jan. 27, 2022. A Google search on the same topic brings up a slew of outdated articles from 2017 to 2019 presenting an overview of the topic, but surfaces only one news article from a community currently considering the policy.

A second option is to read the minutes from public hearings about the topic. The minutes will tell you how many constituents showed up to the meeting, how many people spoke, and what kind of concerns they shared. If you tried to find those insights by reading local news coverage from those meetings, you’d only get a tiny sampling of the opinions shared (if the meeting was even covered by the press).

Review, filter, and favorite the latest discussions on your customized dashboard

From the Curate dashboard, you can view all the documents or “hits” that match your default filters. You can sort them by document date, alphabetically by location, or by "read" or "unread" status. You’ll also see an interactive map that shows the geographical distribution of the hits and lets you open hits from the map.

Curate map of Wisconsin

You can search within your established filter to further refine the feed. For example, in the screenshot below, the user’s filter covers the broader topic of Land & Wildlife Protection, but the user has searched “invasive species” to only see documents that mention that sub-topic.

Curate list of hits

You can favorite any hit to save it for later follow-up. You can also share hits with team members by email.

Immediately connect with potential collaborators

Curate maintains the largest database of local government contact information available within a local legislative tracking software with more than 112,000 contacts in more than 8,000 city and county local governments.

As soon as you identify a hit you want to research further, you can find the name, title, email, and phone number for the stakeholders within that local governing body. This saves you from having to dig through the city or county website trying to find the name and contact info of a staff member who might be working on the project.

Get Access to Easy, Efficient & Comprehensive Local Policy Tracking

Local governments that don’t proactively monitor policy decisions in neighborhood and peer communities risk reinventing the wheel and making avoidable errors as they introduce proposals to address emerging challenges.

In today’s era of political polarization, you can’t afford to operate in the dark.

With Curate, you can eliminate the hours needed to gather information and easily track insights on dozens of topics in hundreds of communities to keep an eye on what’s happening in the local governments around you or the country.

Ready to see Curate for yourself?

Back to resources listing