How CityGrows Works
Catherine Geanuracos
July 20, 2021

How CityGrows Works

If you work for a government, chances are you work with many different types of standardized processes involving complicated flow charts, paper forms, or clunky legacy technology. In today's fast-paced web-based world, these can be extremely difficult to manage.


CityGrows is a simple, low-cost platform that lets you create online versions of government processes, making them simpler, faster, and more effective without the need for technical knowledge, IT support, or expensive custom software. Because you or someone on your team does the setup themselves, you're always in control of how things work on CityGrows. And, because we're "self-service" technology, we can provide governments with access to excellent digital tools at extremely low cost.

Getting Started

When you start using CityGrows, we automatically give you 30 days of free access, so you can test things out and see if CityGrows is right for your needs.  After 30 days, you can request an additional 30 days of free access.  After that (by then you'll probably have at least one process live) you can pick the subscription plan that's right for you. You can get started right away and have a process ready to go in just a few minutes.

For the sake of simplicity, let's assume you'd like to offer your constituents the ability to get a garage sale permit online. After creating an account, the first thing you'll see is your dashboard, but since you just started there aren't any processes in it. The first thing to do is create a new template for your process.


You'll use the template to tell CityGrows what needs to happen for someone to get a garage sale permit. (Another option is to copy an existing sample process or a process that's already been implemented by another government, and then adapt it.)

Build Your Permit Template

Once you have created your first template, you'll need to add steps, one for each component of the process. The template editor supports a wide variety of functions including sharing instructions and requirements (basic steps), forms (collect information steps), reviews, and payments. For each step, you'll decide whether it's done by an applicant or by someone inside of your organization and be able to specify things like automatic status notifications and timeframes.

Continue adding steps until you've completed your template. The image below is from the setup for a Collect Information step - you can accept lots of different types of information through CityGrows, and the system will automatically make sure the data is entered correctly. For example, if you want to collect an email address, the applicant won't be able to go forward until their answer is in the form of an email address. Here's a list of the data types you can pick from when you're setting up a Collect Information step:

  • Text
  • Paragraph Text
  • Email
  • Date
  • File (yes, we support and store uploaded files!)
  • Number (with or without decimal)
  • Money
  • Phone number (U.S. format)
  • Address (automatically geocoded and mapped)
  • Multiple choice (applicant chooses one answer)
  • Checkbox (applicant chooses one or more answers)

CityGrows makes it easy to add or remove questions, and add or change the order of steps. You can also add Logic to your forms, so that questions appear based on the answers to previous questions.

And CityGrows isn't just for online forms, it also works to track what you do behind the scenes for every application - things like getting review and approvals and collecting community feedback/ survey responses all happen on the platform (and are easy to do on mobile or desktop).


Once you've got a template set up, you can start to customize the look and feel of it through changing the banner image and adding a description. You can also add users to the template and to your Team. Teams are where you add your City's logo and configure your payouts. Once you've shared the template with your colleagues and tested it out, you're ready to publish and set it live by publishing the process.

Add Your New Permit To Your City Website

Once you've published your process, CityGrows will give you a link to share with your constituents. If you already have a place on your website with links to PDF permit applications, simply add your new CityGrows link to that page. You can also share your CityGrows links via email, social media, or through media coverage or newsletters. We find that once constituents have the option for online access, up to 85% of them switch to a digital process within the first year.

Try It Out

When constituents click the link, they'll be guided through the permitting process from start to finish.


And you'll be able to see everything your constituents are doing from your admin dashboard.


You can also revisit the template to get more insights about how it's being used, how much revenue you're generating, and more.


Every public CityGrows process automatically creates basic open data - no need to send things to a separate open data portal. You control which fields and information are included in the public open data when you set up your template. And for people who still really feel more comfortable with paper, there's always an option to download a PDF record of their application.

We hope this helps explain how CityGrows works! You can find lots more information from an applicant, administrator, and government employee perspective in our Help and Support section.

All this is available to test out and use any time.  You can get started by creating a free trial government account.  And if you have more questions about how it's possible we offer this for free, check out our Pricing FAQ to learn more.  We hope you test out CityGrows, and if you'd like us to show you how it works, we're happy to set up time for a demonstration.  Want to read some more? Here's a good place to start.


Catherine Geanuracos

Catherine is the CEO and a Co-Founder of CityGrows. She's dedicated to supporting local governments and helping them improve outcomes for their residents and staff members. She is a former VP of the City of Los Angeles Innovation and Performance Commission and co-founder of LA's Code for America Brigade Hack for LA. She's based in Los Angeles.

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