Citizens’ Maslow Hierarchy of Needs

By Steve Ressler, Founder, GovLoop

I’ve recently had a number of conversations with folks government on what citizens truly want.

Transactions/FAQ – There’s one camp that argues to focus on the break and butter – For example, the relaunched which has a strong emphasis on fixing top frequently asked questions and optimizing 100,000+ transactions. Another example would be Honolulu Answers.

Deep Engagement – There’s another camp that really wants to focus on citizen engagement and action. How do we get citizens to share ideas and take collective action? Think companies like MindMixer that host great online town halls like Folsom 2035 where they ask “What is your vision of this community over the next 20 years?”.  Or crowdsource funding for agency problems (great start-ups like Citizinvestor).

There’s no right or wrong answer but I think Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a great way to view the citizen demand curve.  You must meet the basic needs before moving up the hierarchy of needs chain.

Fundamental needs like applying for benefits or emergency alerts, are inherently more popular than deeper engagement as I’ve seen from looking at three interesting data points:NC online services

So let me get into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how they relate to citizen’s hierarchy of needs.

  1. Physiology = Basic Transactions – The foundation of Maslow’s hierarchy is physiological – breathing, food, water.  For government, that’s the basic transactions – getting your driver’s license, renewing your passport, applying for food stamps.
  2. Safety = Emergencies/Jobs – One step above is safety – security of body, employment.   Think of this as emergency alerts like text/emails with snow/hurricane information.  Also it’s finding employment – being able to find and apply for government jobs.
  3. Love/belonging = General Agency Content/News – Is a sense of community.  To me this is getting news about your community, getting the parks information for example or the latest on a new school opening.  Or NASA sharing its trip to the moon with you via great images, conversations, and more.
  4. Esteem = Sharing Ideas – Esteem to me is the process of sharing ideas.  One builds self-esteem, confidence, and achievement by the ability to share one’s voice with others – an in-person or online townhall, ability to give feedback on a program, etc
  5. Self-actualization = Citizen Problem Solving – Is the highest level of Maslow’s need and involves creativity and problem solving.  I think of this as building on open data or organizing a citizen watch group.

Conclusion – As you plan citizen engagement activities, think about where you are on the Maslow hierarchy of needs.  Are you meeting the base needs?  Are you connecting the base needs to the deeper engagement?


Original post on GovLoop.

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