In an effort to leverage technology to build more efficient operations, many organizations are embracing the field of business intelligence, which transforms data into “actionable insights that inform an organization’s strategic and tactical business decisions,” according to CIO.com.
Typically, business intelligence focuses on gathering information about the internal factors that influence an organization’s success. For example, downtime in a manufacturing line, a sales team’s average call length, or the conversion rate of a website. The data can then present trends in a visual format so that decision-makers can identify opportunities to improve processes and outcomes.
But many of the most important factors that determine your organization’s success are completely outside your control — things like consumer confidence, weather, and the political environment, particularly at the local level.
Local politics has a huge influence on almost every business sector. Municipal and County governments set laws concerning:
The list of potential areas for municipal regulation goes on and on.
And yet, so many organizations operate in complete darkness about the local policy environment. They might skim the local newspapers, but they only get involved if a new local regulation that could harm their business or members is on the agenda for a vote at the city council.
At that point, it’s often too late to influence the outcome.
Organizations that build a process for staying on top of local policy issues position themselves to seize more opportunities and prevent changes to local laws that could disrupt their operations.
We call that process gathering civic intelligence.
Civic intelligence refers to actionable insights about the way local politics is shaping the business environment.
Civic intelligence can help you beat your competition when new opportunities arise. It can also help organizations plan ahead for changes in regulatory environments so they can pivot their business model without experiencing downtime or help members do so.
When municipalities propose changes to local ordinances that would cause your business’s operational costs to rise or completely disrupt your business model, civic intelligence helps you weigh in on the topic at the right time to influence the outcome of the decision.
Civic intelligence comes in a variety of forms. City council meeting minutes are often full of comments and discussions about hot-button issues that indicate upcoming policy changes or business opportunities. For example:
When you find a juicy bit of intel in a city council agenda or minutes from a recent meeting, it’s time to spring into action.
At a minimum, you might register to speak at the next meeting where the issue will be discussed. But to be even more proactive, you might need to set up a meeting with your local representative to share your opinion on a proposed ordinance.
You may also need to activate your network of advocates and give them the background information so that they can also contact their elected officials in support of your organization’s position. If you have a government affairs team, they might launch a full-scale grassroots campaign to bring awareness of the issue to the public.
Some pieces of civic intelligence are signs of future business opportunities. Local government meeting minutes and agendas are full of leads organizations can use to grow.
Maybe you’re a clean energy consultant and you find a discussion about how a city wants to lower its carbon footprint within the next five years. Or you’re a restaurant supplier and you see a liquor license application for a new restaurant. These are all opportunities to make new connections that could lead to new accounts or projects for your business or members.
Getting an early alert about upcoming policy changes gives you time to weigh in on the change and potentially influence the outcome of a vote.
But it also gives you time to prepare your organization for the changing business environment. Whether you find exciting opportunities or worrisome policy trends, building a civic intelligence program will make sure your organization is best positioned to mitigate risk and adjust course for what is to come.
Local governments function best when stakeholders are actively engaged in the legislative process. But keeping track of every proposed ordinance is hard enough to do when you only operate in one locality. If your organization is large enough to operate or your members operate in multiple municipalities, the burden of manually keeping up with city council agendas and committee meeting minutes can become overwhelming.
Even if your team has a full-time government affairs person, it’s almost impossible to keep up with the rapidly changing local policy environment without the help of special civic intelligence tools, namely local legislative tracking software.
Curate, part of FiscalNote, is the leading provider of civic intelligence software.
Curate uses machine learning to monitor and analyze local government agendas and minutes to give customers an edge with clear, simple, and actionable civic intelligence. Curate empowers businesses to understand and engage with local politics at scale.
For a complete civic intelligence solution, there are a variety of tools that provide a great compliment to Curate’s local policy monitoring, especially for organizations interested in tracking legislation at the state and national level and managing grassroots advocacy campaigns all over the country.