Why do we choose to stay in a city?

Cities want their citizens to stay — to build communities, grow families, and contribute to a place they can call home.

But what makes people choose to stay in a city?

Integral to a citizen’s relationship to their city is their relationship to their local government — the body that provides the services that root and nurture neighborhoods, schools, and communities. And that relationship with their local government is analogous to any other kind of committed relationship. Folks stick around because they feel heard, valued, and responsible.

And what’s interesting is that the connection between feeling heard, valued, and responsible is often linear.

Feeling heard begets feeling valued.

If a citizen feels like their local government is listening and attentive to their concerns, they are more likely to feel valued by their city.

Feeling valued begets feeling responsible.

If a citizen feels like they add value to their city, they are more likely to feel responsibility and ownership.

Feeling ownership begets feeling committed.

If a citizen feels responsibility over a place, they are more likely to choose to stay in that place.

SeeClickFix (@SeeClickFix) is a platform that was built to be a place for citizens and governments to feel heard by each other. Citizens report issues in their neighborhood and receive direct, public feedback from their government. Governments provide citizens with updates on progress, including work accomplished that often goes unnoticed.

And if you dive into the numbers behind SeeClickFix (2 millions issues reported, Half a million users), you can see it is working.

For every citizen that reports an issue on SeeClickFix, over 50% of citizens report again.

And this does not take into account the large number of people who engage on SeeClickFix in a variety of other important ways besides reporting (i.e. voting, commenting, and watching).

To provide a reference point, less than 26% of apps are only opened once and never touched again.

And, more importantly, for every citizen that reports an issue on SeeClickFix and gets feedback from their government, even more citizens report more.

To provide another reference point, 16% of overall app users would give an app more than 2 tries if it didn’t work the first time.

When citizens engage on SeeClickFix and are heard, they engage again.

And for some citizens, they engage again. And again. And again.

Meet Jimmy Frost.

Jimmy Frost is a long-time resident of Virginia Beach, VA. He’s an Uber and Lyft driver, web designer, and social media manager for local politicians.

He’s also the top SeeClickFix user in the entire city of Virginia Beach with 5,685 civic points. He’s reported 114 issues, written 51 comments, and voted 12 times.

Jimmy Frost’s SeeClickFix profile.

He even remembers the first issue he ever reported on SeeClickFix:

When I downloaded [SeeClickFix], I remember the first thing I did was report a burned out street light that was on the next block from my house. And the city came out a fixed it within days. And I was like aw man, this is too cool!

And he loves his city:

I really take such pride in Virginia Beach. It’s my lifelong home; I’ve lived here my whole life, even when I was younger and I drove a truck for 19 years. When I thought I’d look for a place to settle down, the place that I wanted to be was Virginia Beach.

But why?

Look, I’ve got a wonderful wife and a great home. And [SeeClickFix] helps me take a very proactive stance in keeping Virginia Beach the city I like it to be. What an amazing application. It is versatile and functional.

SeeClickFix has given Jimmy access to the often complicated nature of these issues — and the time and effort required of local governments to fix them:

A lot of people say the city doesn’t care because they haven’t fixed the pothole, the light, the graffiti. And I would ask: Have you told them?

Why does Jimmy think folks haven’t told their governments about these issues?

Virginia Beach had and does have very good city services. But there were two barriers before SeeClickFix:
1. You have to find the number.
2. You have to get someone on the phone.
A lot of people won’t take the time to make a phone call because they don’t want to be put on hold, wait to give all the information.

And now, with SeeClickFix, what happens?

Now that we’re using our smartphones, it’s just boom. It’s so streamlined and goes to the right people. With SeeClickFix, you click a few screens, take a picture of it. Have a nice day! And it’s taken care of.

And what does this do for Jimmy?

It gives me a sense of ownership, a sense of investment in our city. It makes me feel like you can affect a positive change and you don’t have to go wave a banner or wear a sign. You can be sitting in a 7–11, you see a pothole or light out and you can actually do something about it and it takes 5 minutes. 5 minutes to make a better city. Sign me up!

And why does Jimmy do it?

I’m getting up in years now, I’m 60. But with SeeClickFix I can still do something that makes a difference. And no one has to know my name — it’s just the fact that it gets done.
I would like to not only leave our posterity better than the one we found, but I would like to give people the tools as well as a the desire to keep making it better long after I’m gone.
I wanted to emphasize how [SeeClickFix] has helped me if not take “ownership” of our town, at least I can play a small, albeit important part of helping to keep it everything that it has become over the course of my life and helping steer it to a brighter future. The city staff can’t be expected to be everywhere and find everything-this makes it easy to help them do a better job for us.
“I love this place and will fight to defend it from blight, decay and indifference.”

And he’s telling others too:

Another facet of the “See-Click-Fix” experience is, a lot of people see me out doing what I’m doing with the phone and the app and ask me “who are you” or “what are you doing?”
I see that as an opening to tell them about the app, what it does and tell them to look for this problem to be fixed sooner rather than later. They like the “sooner” part of the equation.

Jimmy even wrote an op-ed in The Virginian-Pilot called “New Virginia Beach App Becomes an Obsession”.

Crazy things happen when citizens feel heard by their local governments.

Potholes get fixed. Citizens write articles lauding the city. Local governments become more efficient, while reducing costs of services.

And, perhaps most importantly, citizens feeling heard ignites a sustained chain — where feeling heard builds into feeling valued and into feeling responsible.

And then, they choose to stay.

You should follow SeeClickFix and me on Twitter.