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10 Lessons in More Engaging Citizen Engagement
June 17, 2014 at 6:10 pm #182354
We all know that as more and more people move to cities, local governments are facing new challenges. How do you provide enough affordable housing? Public transit? How do you engage all citizens and not just the “usual suspects” or very active citizens? How do you provide the rights services that people need and enough of them? Although challenging, the more cities can engage the broader public, the better.
Planetizen is a public-interest information exchange for the urban planning, design, and development community. In a recent blog post, they look across Metro Vancouver (a region known for its public consultation) for current best practices and lessons in better community engagement. Below I’ve highlighted some of my favorites but I encourage you to look at the full list here for more information.
- Bring City Hall to the Community- When City Hall is difficult to access due to location and service hours, citizen engagement obviously declines. Rather than let it decline, Vancouver municipalities are bringing City Hall to the community. For example, Pitt Meadows has been scheduling City Council meetings at seniors centres and high schools, while Vancouver has proposed a pilot program for a mobile kiosk to make key city services (such as paying a parking ticket or registering to vote) available at select times to neighborhoods.
- Tell Stories – What’s more memorable: a relatable story or a list of facts on a powerpoint? Storytelling can be effective in bringing together a diverse group of people to share experiences in how to improve the community. For example, the City of Vancouver partnered with a popular monthly “Pecha Kucha” event to launch the Greenest City 2020 Conversation and website. It was one of the largest events ever.
- Map Your Assets – Community Asset Mapping involves informing policies and activities through the creation of a ‘map’ of the community’s resources. The process is intended to mobilize a community to focus on what matters most.
- Expand Online Consultation – In an effort to get broader involvement, cities like Vancouver, Richmond, and Surrey have launched online consultation platforms that allow citizens to sign up once, share their background, and receive regular invitations to provide opinions—online or in person—on important civic issues. The activities range from surveys, and forums to quick polls on various topics.
You can check out the full post here which has other ideas to increase citizen engagement in cities. Many of these ideas involve new technology and getting information online and accessible on any number of devices. But the other important element is that it brings the engagement to the community. Rather than relying on community members to attend town hall meetings, they make it easy for people to participate.
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