Invitation Phone Calls Increase Attendance at Civic Meetings: Evidence from a Field Experiment



Public managers, in addition to implementing sound policies, are expected to manage public participation in the policy process. Civic meetings, in which citizens, elected officials, and public managers discuss proposed policies, can be an effective venue for citizen input, but only if participation is sufficiently high. This article shows that municipal government managers can improve attendance at civic meetings through invitation phone calls. Results from a field experiment in which stakeholders were randomly assigned to receive an invitation phone call for a civic meeting indicate that invitation phone calls can significantly increase meeting attendance. The attendance rate among the 108 stakeholders selected to receive the phone call was higher than among the 169 stakeholders in the control group (8.3 percent versus 4.7 percent). The $20 cost of increasing meeting attendance by one stakeholder is about equal to the cost of increasing turnout in an election by one voter.