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Respectful Community Engagement


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This presentation was given on November 30, 2017 as part of an invited panel discussion at the Workshop on Effective
Community-University-Industry Collaboration Models for Smart and Connected Communities Research In Washington, DC. Sponsored by the National Science Foundation and hosted by Boston University's Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and The Initiative on Cities

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Respectful Community Engagement

  1. 1. Fostering Respectful Community Engagement Elizabeth Sullivan Executive Director, Brighton Main Streets
  2. 2. Liz Sullivan • BA Boston College, MBA Babson College • Background in online community management and social media marketing • Currently Executive Director, Brighton Main Streets, focusing on placemaking in the neighborhood of Brighton, Boston
  3. 3. @lizsullivan nliz/ hSullivanMBA1
  5. 5. Photo courtesy of Danita Jo Photography
  6. 6. Brighton, MA • Neighborhood within City of Boston • Home to Higher Ed, Healthcare, New Balance world HQ • Population a little over 50,000 people • Over three-quarters renters; students & young professionals • Designated low- to moderate-income community • Rapidly gentrifying, displacement is our single greatest issue
  8. 8. Photos courtesy of Danita Jo Photography
  9. 9. Photo courtesy of Danita Jo Photography
  10. 10. Brighton Main Streets • Independent Nonprofit • Economic Development & Neighborhood Revitalization • Produce events to activate the district • Streetscape improvements • Small business assistance • Smart cities project: interactive wayfinding kiosk Spring 2018
  12. 12. Photo Courtesy of Oak Square Farmer’s Market
  13. 13. Outreach • Outreach is a bit of a dirty word…simply seeking to inform or provide project updates – The “DESIGN-ANNOUNCE-DEFEND” model of community engagement • Perception that “the community” is a undifferentiated monolith – In reality, "the community" contains many subgroups, often with competing desires, interests and needs • Outreach is community meetings with the same faces & loud voices, not truly representative
  14. 14. Community Engagement = people have control over issues that affect them
  15. 15. Community Collaboration Opportunities • Community members can help identify knowledge gaps, as well as fill those gaps • Community members can brainstorm extra supports, education, resources necessary for meaningful engagement—project team AND community need skill building to fully engage • Bring people into the design of communication materials for culturally relevant signage and appropriate copy • Community contacts can help avoid tokenism. Ask: who is missing from the table?
  16. 16. DO THIS, NOT THAT!
  17. 17. Photo courtesy of Local Initiatives Support Corporation
  18. 18. Core Values Statement • DO have a core values statement for the project itself • DO focus values statement on social inclusion and equity – Core values statement can help when consensus is not possible – Transparency shows that decisions are not arbitrary – Helps move the project forward past NIMBYism, resistance, & obstacles
  19. 19. More Community Engagement Do’s • DO always follow up, follow through, keep your promises • DO install a feedback loop at every stage of the process • DO “Give before you get”. Ask people: what does this community need? • DO find, share, and promote wins early and often
  20. 20. Boston Public Schools (Un?) Welcome Center
  21. 21. Community Engagement “Don’t’s” • Don’t limit your efforts to community meetings; meetings are only one part of the strategy – If you do hold community meetings, provide food, translation and childcare • Don’t have a team member lead engagement if he or she is not a “people person” – Use a person with soft skills, even if they are less senior • Don’t practice tokenism; make real effort to identify partners
  23. 23. Photo courtesy of Local Initiatives Support Corporation
  24. 24. Challenges to Community Engagement • Immense additional resources must be in place (respect, trust, time, money, contacts) • Getting everyone on the project team to adopt the core values & equity lens
  25. 25. Communication Barriers • Recognizing and acknowledging the barriers to communication – Technological innovations often leave people out, leave people behind, or worse, exacerbate inequality—PEOPLE KNOW THIS, it’s been happening since the industrial revolution – When many cities struggle to provide residents with the most basic of services, it’s fair for people to ask “Why are we doing this pie-in-the-sky project when infrastructure is crumbling around us?”
  26. 26. Final Thoughts • There are no shortcuts • Get out and talk to people: as easy and hard as it sounds “Change happens at the speed of trust.”
  27. 27. Community Engagement Resources • International Association for Public Participation • The Change Handbook Definitive-Resource-Engaging/dp/1576753794 • Community Planning Toolkit tes/default/files/Engagement.pdf