As a municipality that truly believes in fostering a culture of innovation, the City of Grande Prairie is a trailblazer for implementing new ideas that enhance staff productivity and increased awareness of city services.
In fact, Grande Prairie was recently awarded Vision Internet’s Green Governance Award for a new website, cityofgp.com, that made its debut in February 2012. With it, the municipality gives important information to citizens effectively and efficiently.
The Strategic Services department in Grande Prairie was created in 2011 and tasked with the responsibility of overseeing digital communication and online engagement, which included the launch of a new public website. The Strategic Services team knew increasing the amount of pertinent information on the website was the next step. “From my perspective it just made sense,” explains web analyst Shawn Tucker. “More people are looking for easily accessible information online and it’s our job to make that information readily available to them.”
The city itself is guided by 11 principles, one being a healthy environment that considers the impact of our actions on the environment and leading by example.
“Our citizens and their families deserve a high quality of life,” says Mayor Bill Given. “City Council is committed to supporting these initiatives that will benefit the health of all residents.”
So, what exactly put Grande Prairie into the winner’s circle for the Green Governance Award? While there were other categories for Vision’s Internet “What’s Next” awards, such as transparency and visual impact, the city’s commitment to green initiatives is unparalleled.
“Reviewing the categories for the awards, CityofGP.com has so many outstanding attributes that could be classified as ‘green’. Our goal has always been to increase access to services through the website, but what staff was already doing subsequently translated into reducing the carbon footprint in Grande Prairie,” says web coordinator Nikki Thompson, who submitted the application for the city.
Off the presses
One of the municipality’s green initiatives is to make all printed publications available online before printed copies are offered. On average, the city produces about 16 publications annually.
Citizens are encouraged to download PDFs or simply read publications online, allowing the municipality to have smaller print runs and less recyclable waste. From a citizen’s perspective, this is a much simpler alternative, with easy access to their favourite city publications at any time.
A green department
In 2010, Grande Prairie committed to environmental initiatives with the formation of the Environmental Stewardship Department. Its staff is dedicated to resident education and implementation programs to further citizen engagement.
“City Council identified environmental responsibility as a core value of our organization,” says Environmental Stewardship manager Michelle Gairdner. “Ensuring we have as much information as possible on our web pages allows the entire community to have access and minimizes our costs. Keeping the citizens of Grande Prairie informed but also involved in a more sustainable community is our main priority.”
Using the web as a platform, the city made an investment to transfer all Council and committee packages from paper to online download. The municipality was using roughly 7,000 units of paper at a cost of five cents per sheet. Transitioning these documents to digital download results in a savings of approximately $4,300 annually. Countless staff hours are saved by not having to manually photocopy documents.
Content is king
Grande Prairie has put its best foot forward when it comes to environment-savvy content across the organization, reflecting a young and vibrant community. The Parks Department has offered users an in-depth directory of trees, funguses, as well as the good, bad and ugly on bugs. Employment seekers can check out Human Resources online-only resume submission site.
While the integration of new methods or change in a large organization is not without its challenges, Grande Prairie is one municipality that is up to the challenge. Departments city-wide have made the commitment to put environmental solutions as a priority while still distributing a high-level standard of information.
Grande Prairie has shown that it will continue to create a green and user-centered culture, while challenging the dated standards of information access within government culture.