Launching the Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs on SF.gov
In May 2019, the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA) was the first city department to go live on SF.gov. Being the first department to take a leap of faith, alongside Digital Services was an exciting endeavor for our small department with a big name.
How we got there
The journey to get our content on a website that was easier for users to quickly find what they need wasn’t a simple or short process. We started by agreeing on a content roadmap for our key staff members, outlining the process and time commitment to get us SF.gov-ready. It took over 2 months to get OCEIA from our first workshop to a functional homepage. Persis and I spent many hours both writing content and shepherding the process.
Describing our work in new ways
This process was an opportunity for OCEIA to reexamine the needs of San Francisco residents, and rethink how we talk about those services as a department.
If you look at our about page on sfgov.org, we describe ourselves as “a policy, compliance, direct services and grantmaking office” whose “mission is to promote inclusive policies and foster immigrant assistance programs that lead to full civic, economic and linguistic integration.” Sounds important, right? But what was missing from that description is what we actually do for our residents.
Pulling our resident-focused services to the surface was the first step. Is this information or is this a service? Is this service for a resident or another City department?
Services for San Franciscans
Identifying key services like Get immigration legal help, Get a safety escort to walk with you, and Report a City department for not providing interpretation or translation helped us pull out all the diverse array of services we had buried in PDFs and countless links on our old site. It also focused our web content on services that are critical to San Franciscans.
Rethinking ourselves as a service-facing department hasn’t just helped our online presence, it’s improved the way we talk about those services. As OCEIA’s Senior Communications Specialist, I work closely with our content that lives online and in person. Now, when I engage with San Franciscans — whether it’s answering calls, talking with residents at neighborhood events, or conducting presentations with community partners — I have a clearer sense of what services we offer for our residents, and how to describe those services in a clear and straightforward way.
Just as SF.gov is continuing to evolve after the initial launch, the OCEIA team is doing the same as we navigate what’s working, what needs modifying, and what’s missing. In this transition, it’s been bouncing between old and new websites, reminding ourselves what residents need the most, and relearning how to communicate that in an accessible, simple manner.
As the Digital Services team continues to add to SF.gov, OCEIA is monitoring feedback to make sure we’re not losing users between SF.gov and sfgov.org. We’re making sure residents, City departments, and our community partners know how to find the information they need. We’re working with internal staff and looking forward to fully integrating our language access, grantmaking, and 2020 Census content into SF.gov in the future.