Communicating smartly and digitally with citizens

Saxion study ‘Social Smart Governance’ instructive for governments

As a government, how can you smartly use modern technology to improve contact with citizens? That was the question that professor Harrie Kiekebosch of Saxion University of Applied Sciences tried to answer with his research group ‘Social Smart Governance’. The results are instructive for all governments.

In short

  • How can governments smartly use modern technology to improve contact with citizens
  • Saxion study ‘Social Smart Governance’ instructive for governments

Global Goal

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Eight municipalities participated in the study: Dinkelland / Tubbergen, Enschede, Hengelo, Borne, Zwolle and Hardenberg from the province of Overijssel, and North Holland-based Hoorn. “Governments want to talk to citizens. The question is: how to approach this communication? Would governments need to respond to every message on social media, or should they rather ignore it? Every municipality brought in a case, and we analysed it: what are the consequences and what would happen with a slightly different approach?”


According to Kiekebosch, an important takeaway is that municipalities must be aware of the behaviour of their target group. “The municipality of Hardenberg asked young people to join the conversation on the environmental vision. They got zero responses. The municipality was surprised: they had announced it on social media, which could be seen as a good way to reach young people. We analysed the situation and saw that none of the young people followed the municipality online, as they did not believe that would be a cool thing to do. That’s why the messages did not reach the intended audience.”


The researchers then approached the Vechtdal College to reach influencers. They made a vlog, asking student ‘What would be a reason for you to return to Hardenberg after your studies?’. “After publishing that video, we asked all students to provide three reasons why they would want to return to Hardenberg. All of a sudden, lots of input was present. You need to dare to think and act outside the box.”


In Enschede, two employees are now working on the results that Obi4wan, a cutting newspaper from social media, is showing. “This way, we can instantly see what's going on in the municipality. Especially the things that you often don't hear in the town hall. This way, municipalities will never be surprised by a journalist who has heard something they do not know yet.”


Think and act outside of the box

At, governments can learn how they can effectively communicate with their citizens. First, they can fill in a quick scan, which reveals strengths and weaknesses. After that, a more extensive canvas can be filled in. The site also contains various examples of best practices from other municipalities.

Date: 2 July 2019 |

Source of tekst: INN'twente |

Author: Frederike Krommendik