Balancing Responsiveness & Resource Management | Year of the Citizen Webinar Series

Balancing Responsiveness & Resource Management [webinar]

Last month we sat down with Riverside, California’s Chief Innovation Officer Lea Deesing and Director of Community & Economic Development Rafael Guzman to talk about their strides in customer-facing technology. With an innovative ‘ecosystem’ of online services, Riverside, CA is a nationwide leader in providing customer-centric tools and platforms for their residents and visitors. Having spent many years working in smaller communities, Deesing and Guzman also share their insights for improving customer service and technological innovation without breaking the bank.

Watch the entire webinar here or watch the segmented sections below to learn more about improving the state of technology and customer-service in the public sector.

Webinar & Speaker Introductions

Speaker Presentations

Riverside, CA: An Innovative Ecosystem of Online Services | Lea Deesing


  • Riverside has created an internal culture of technological innovation and customer-service
  • A 24/7 virtual City Hall means offering all possible in-person services online, and the services are being used!
  • Creating open data and online tools means greater citizen engagement and collaboration, especially with younger generations

Riverside, CA: Customer-Service Initiatives | Rafael Guzman


  • Online tools are available for free or at low cost – and many are effective at promoting economic growth
  • You have to be active about soliciting citizen feedback, physical tools have been particularly successful
  • Streamlining citizen services for Riverside meant creating a ‘one stop shop’ for development projects

Audience Q & A

Question: What are low-cost ways to gather citizen feedback in order to determine the highest-impact IT projects? | Lea Deesing & Rafael Guzman


  • Have diverse ways of collecting citizen feedback (311 calls, in-person tools, website pop-ups, live portals, etc.)
  • Have regular review processes and designated people to decide what to implement based on citizen feedback
  • Diverse input streams solicit more representative feedback (not just the complainers!)

Question: How can you convince non tech-savvy decision-makers/employees that it’s worth investing in new technology? | Lea Deesing & Rafael Guzman


  • Show staff how you can make their lives easier through new technology
  • Make sure you highlight the customer’s perspective
  • Bring beta tests and prototypes to the table — people like to see real-life examples

Question: What should smaller communities prioritize first when launching new technology? | Rafael Guzman & Lea Deesing


  • Look for scalable, cheap projects that take more initiative than money – use these successes as leverage for later projects
  • Take advantage of local resources like student interns, hackathons, startups, etc., where you can find mutual benefits

Question: What’s the role of beta testing and prototyping new technology? | Lea Deesing


  • Work closely with marketing personnel to visualize the product before coding
  • Test thoroughly before launching any new product and then do a phased launch (start internally, then move outward)
  • An agile approach means don’t strive for perfection, strive for continual improvement

Question: What’s been your most successful customer-service initiative? | Lea Deesing & Rafael Guzman


  • Success comes from the ‘ecosystem’ of services that come together to form the customer service experience
  • 311 mobile app has been particularly successful
  • Innovation comes from opening up the conversation to include core stakeholders in the public

Question: How can we address the ‘digital divide’ in a community when we’re implementing new technology? | Lea Deesing


  • Narrowing the digital divide requires active education across generations
  • Look for grant funding to provide technology and education to low-income students and families
  • High-speed broadband access is a key part of technological equity

Question: How do you use data to improve operations? | Lead Deesing & Rafael Guzman


  • Take an active stance toward utilizing internal data to make better decisions
  • Start be taking inventory of your data — what do you have access to right now?
  • Take advantage of What Works Cities resources and best practices

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