Reinventing Community Engagement

Over the course of 20 years of professional and individual community engagement, we’ve been to a LOT of different types of public meetings.  The best ones are creative and fun with active involvement of participants.  They actually work to make a project better. The worst ones are boring, limit community feedback, or worse–collect feedback and then proceed to ignore it as the project progresses.

Io LandArch’s signature Grassroots Design process focuses on building better communities from the ground up.  We invite local residents to to be actively involved in the community planning and design process.  We start by asking residents to imagine the possibilities in their own communities. This collaboration will not only enhance your particular goal/project but go on to catalyze ongoing grassroots efforts.  Here are 5-ways to get the most out of your next public engagement effort:

Photo Courtesy of Sharen Hauri

1.  Get the kids involved!  After all it’s their community, too.  Arrange to take your ideas/project to affected local schools.  Be sure to make the presentations and activities age-appropriate and engaging. Kids are very hands on, so ask them to draw their ideas or give them craft supplies and have them build 3D models.

Photo Courtesy of Emily Ballard

2.  Go to the community. Let’s face it, hanging out at a city building in some boring meeting on a weeknight is not anyone’s idea of a good time. Instead, host a community potluck (or better yet, provide the food) at a local park, recreation center, or church.

Photo Courtesy of Emily Ballard

3.  Combine planning with a volunteer activity.  The general public usually like to feel like their ideas and feedback can have immediate results.  Activities like a local park clean-up (pictured above, photo courtesy of Emily Ballard)or community mural project, provides residents with an immediate sense of accomplishment and helps to foster community pride.

Photo Courtesy of Emily Ballard

4.  Make it family friendly.  No one wants to hire a babysitter just so that they can attend a public meeting, and you need feedback from families and kids.  So whatever format your event is, make sure that there are age-appropriate activities to help entertain the little ones.

Photo by Tonya Rose

5.  Follow-up.  Don’t just catalog the feedback and move on with your project.  If possible, collect contact information so you can follow-up to thank participants for their participation and keep them updated on how the project turns out.  Better yet, identify participants who are interested in providing more feedback for one-on-one interviews or participation in ongoing stakeholder/steering committees.

For more ideas about how to implement grassroots design in your community, follow us on instagram and facebook @iolandarch.