Recap - August 2020 Lunch Program
On August 25th, WTS Sacramento welcomed Nicole Porter and Celia McAdam, both from AIM Consulting, to provide an overview on how COVID has forced us to change how we engage the public, particularly disadvantaged communities. Traditional outreach efforts included 1-2 hour in-person community meetings to engage the diversity of the community to get the input needed for clients to make their project or program successful. COVID required “The Great Pivot” in that public engagement had to quickly and effectively be reimagined in a way to still get the desired results.
AIM implemented new engagement strategies on current projects including the Placer County Resort Triangle Transportation Plan and the Sacramento 2040 General Plan Update and Climate Action Plan. Examples include:
· Virtual Stakeholder Representative Group – This allowed for live polling and ended up resulting in a higher rate of attendance. It was found that the convenience of a virtual event, coupled with no travel or commute time, enabled more participation. Some lessons learned included difficulty sparking open dialogue and much more strict time constraints. Maximizing the limited time available became very important.
· Informational videos and other communication materials - This helped build awareness and education. Virtual events opened up access to youth engagement. It was found that children of diverse backgrounds are often bilingual and can help translate for the entire household. This enabled the team to reach several more people that otherwise would not have been heard. Although several of these households do not have access to computers or tablets, most have access to Smart phones. Making the information easy to understand on a mobile device increased participation from these demographics.
· Leveraging increased outdoor activities – The shelter-in-place orders caused many people to start exercising outdoors. Grass roots approaches like lawn signs at parks, trails, and grocery stores helped motivate folks to visit the virtual engagement platform. Taking advantage of free internet available on transit facilities and various parks throughout Sacramento also increased connectivity with disadvantaged communities.
WTS Sacramento would like Nicole Porter and Celia McAdam for sharing this insight to help us all better engage the public on our projects.