REENGAGE: Mobilizing Your Community Through Proactive Engagement
Hello everyone. Welcome to the third session in our "Planning for a GNARly Future" Online Learning Series. Today's session will focus on Reengaging: Mobilizing your Community Through Proactive Engagement. I am Jordan Katcher, I'm the Initiatives Facilitator with the Wallace Stegner Center Environmental Dispute Resolution Program, and adjunct instructor within the Department of City and Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah. My particular background spans across community development work with students, tribes and rural communities, and I look forward to spending some time talking with you all about this topic today. For anyone who is new to the GNAR Initiative, GNAR stands for Gateway & Natural Amenity Region.
The mission of the GNAR Initiative is to help western gateway and natural amenity regions and the communities that help them thrive and enhance the things that make them special. We do so through catalyzing and supporting research, education and capacity building efforts. The GNAR Initiative is housed in the Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism at Utah State. It is a partnership effort among the Institute, Utah State University Extension, and the Wallace Stegner Center at the University of Utah. You can learn more about us on our website that we will post quickly into the chat.
You can also sign up for the GNAR Initiative email list via that web page to stay up to date on our events and resources. This webinar is the third in this online training series, which we have been titled Reengage: Mobilizing Your Community for Proactive Engagement. Each session addresses a topic that we have identified as being valuable and important for our community planning.
Based on our research and ongoing engagement with GNAR communities across the West. Our overall framing is the idea of reimagining, planning, thinking the way we do things to better suit the realities of the world and current and emerging challenges. Our first session, held in October, focused on refocusing on values as vision, basically using shared community values as the Northstar to guide community planning and decision making. Our second session, held in November, focused on reframing and using an asset-based approach to community planning and decision making. Today's session, the third in our lineup, will focus on reengaging or mobilizing your community members as part of, as we put it, "the problem-solving enterprise" through empowering community development and engagement.
Our fourth session will be in February, and focuses on redefining, focusing on regional collaboration and building across boundaries. And our fifth session, which will be in March, will focus on reimagining planning as an ongoing activity rather than creating plans to just sit on shelves, with a particular focus on scenario planning and planning for uncertainty. All the sessions build on and tie into each other. If you missed the last one, I encourage you to check them out. For the full training program,
please see our website. We will also post into the chat as well. For what to expect, a few important things to note: the session is being recorded, so we will share the session recording, along with the webinar summary via our website after the event. And this is true for all of our sessions. Throughout the session, those of you that are on the live webinar should expect to engage with us.
If you have a specific questions for the speaker (aka me) during the presentation, please post your questions into the chat, and if we do have time, we will address those questions. In addition to your questions, we are also going to be putting prompts for the audience into the chat, and we encourage you all to use a chat function that way as well. So please respond to any and all chats prompts that you see going through. Okay, so let's give it a try. So again, make sure that your chat replies are going to everyone, and we've thrown in a prompt which is asking for your organization, the community that you live in and/or work in, and what aspiration for today's webinar. And I'll give
you all just a moment to submit your responses and we'll see who's here. Great to see you, Mary and Barbara. Great to see you here. We got Moab here. They've got La Grand, Oregon, Livingston, Montana, wonderful. Salt Lake City. Yeah.
And you do get AICP credits? Absolutely. We'll send a link for that in just a moment. Big, wonderful Oregon City. More Livingston, Alaska. So wonderful. Springville City, Holiday in Fox County, Virginia.
I used to live there. Beckley, West Virginia. I used to live there too.
Leadville, Colorado. Hyde Park, Utah. Patagonia, Arizona. Ashton, Idaho.
Cool. Hawaii beautiful. We have a huge array of attendees today and this is really exciting to see. Oklahoma, I love this. New Mexico. This is so cool. Yeah. Please, everyone, keep putting in your locations.
It's really exciting to see where you all are coming from all over this beautiful, beautiful place. Okay, apologies for this. Okay, so thank you for putting that information into the chat. Before we dove in, I wanted to note that our vision in undertaking this online learning series was to really share our thoughts about each of these topics with you all. So the people that are on the ground and within our initiative seeks to serve and we really want to gather your in your feedback about whether these topics are important to you and if so, what additional training you might need. So I would think of this session as more of like "the what" you know.
So some sort of big ideas that we have around particular topics and then we're going to engage with you all to come up with ideas and gather feedback on what these topics are and if there is interest in these topics and people want to take a deeper dive, we are looking at developing a more thorough, fully fledged online training series that will present essentially back to around these topics. Each session aims to lead participants with some concrete takeaways and things you can put into practice in your work and in your lives. So think of each of these little sessions as kind of a little teaser, if you will. And as we go through the material today, think about whether more how to resources would be helpful for you and your work and if you like the idea of more training on this topics. We're also always looking for sponsors and other partners to help us make this work happen, and speaking of partners, I want to thank our sponsors and partners who are making this webinar series possible through financial contributions or in-kind support.
The American Planning Association Utah Chapter is providing AICP continuing education credits for this and other webinar series. So Liz is going to paste that directly that some of you have mentioned already into the chat, so please feel free to click on that link if you're looking for those credits. We're always looking for more sponsors and partners, so please shoot us a note if you want to contribute to or support our work.
If you find this training session and our other work helpful, please also consider donating to support our work too. So we are also going to include a link to donate directly to us. And without further ado, let's do this.
Okay, so we're going to get into our presentation, just to give you all a little bit of a recap of where I'm going to take us, we're essentially going to spend the next 30 minutes and sort of a mini-presentation style, and then we'll segue into more interactive engagement via breakout rooms afterwards. Ideally, we would love for you all to stay here with us during the whole session, and also, if you can only stay for the portion that is the the short series lecture, that's totally fine as well. Please just note this is being recorded too. So okay, before we dove into our slides, I'm really curious about you all signing up for this session and thinking about engagement and kind of what came to mind. So when you think about the word "community engagement", what comes to mind? And we've thrown that prompt into the chat. And I'd just be curious, are there particular words or thoughts or ideas that that kind of come to mind for you in that space? Hmm. Open communication? Yeah.
Public hearings, ongoing, community led. Public meetings, surveys, NIMBY listening. Accessible, inclusivity. Planning. Absolutely. Yes. Public participation.
Present, reaching out to so many residents so that they feel that they have a voice. Absolutely. Citizen committees, definitely, advertising.
Wonderful. Yeah. These are all great, great words to share. And as we talk about engagement, I wanted to actually start us out in the very beginning with going all the way back and thinking about like what actually is engagement. I find that when we talk about certain topics, sometimes we're so used to just doing things the way they've always been done that we kind of forget why we do it, or how we do it.
And I really wanted this session to really focus on taking a step back and thinking about how can we get creative with engagement? How can we be enlivened by the possibilities that can come from it? So, from a very logistical standpoint, from a definitions standpoint, when we think about engagement, engagement essentially is a process of participating or becoming involved in. It's basically just becoming part of something that is larger than yourself. And why does engagement matter? It matters because it increases the visibility and understanding of issues and it empowers community to have their say over decisions that affect their lives. Their towns, cities and neighborhoods. I actually took this from Granicus,
they had a really cool blog on the importance of community engagement. And the reason that it struck me so much was because of three things - three of the words in this passage, right? Increasing the visibility - so the awareness of even what's going on and then the understanding of those issues. Right. So it's one thing to know about them.
It's another to know the complexity of them and then empowering communities to have a say over their decisions that are impacting their own lives. And I think that's really at the heart of engagement, is really visibility, making sure that people know about it, understanding what actually is going on, and being empowered enough to know how to vocalize and share input and suggestions for your community. I also wanted to, because we're talking about engagement, and wanting to go all the way back, I wanted us to start to think about what are the underlying theories behind engagement, right? When we do things, what's our framework? What are we working off of? And so before we get into specifics and examples and fun things to consider, I really wanted to dig a little bit back further into history and I wanted to take us back to 1969. There is some of you may be familiar with Arnstein, Sheri Arnstein's ladder of participation. It depicts who has power when important decisions need to be made. Now from this ladder, we can see that there are essentially eight steps.
You can see going from 1 to 8 all the way at the top. Arnstein essentially had been looking at engagement, and was thinking about, okay, so people are being engaged, with work, but how are they being engaged and is it really intentional and is it good engagement even? Right. So through this ladder Arnstein started to identify what types of engagement related to what. So for example, steps one and two around manipulation and therapy, Arnstein classified as non-participation. Basically what it's saying is a community will say, Hey, we know what's best for you, and we're going to tell you what that is.
And we don't really need your involvement or your say, but we just want to let you know. And that essentially is it's yes, it's letting the public know, but it's not actually engaging with them in our process. As you move further up the ladder, three through five, we have informing, consultation, and application.
Essentially it's saying, hey, we as a community, have thought of certain ideas and we're going to give you some options. We think that we probably know which option is most likely best, but we're going to consult you for a little bit to get some of your input. Right. This is sometimes a one off kind of experience. It's been referred to as tokenism, right? So bringing in people for just a certain thing and kind of leaving them aside. And then as you move further up the ladder, we get into different types of engagement. So 6 to 8 partnership, delegated
power, citizen control, this is classified more as citizen power, right? So thinking about really empowering people to make decisions for themselves, and really involving them in true, true partnership to make impact. The reason this is important is because it interacts with power and understanding power dynamics within your engagement is really, really important. Do community members, feel safe and supported and sharing their thoughts and ideas? Especially if there's power in the room. Right? Elected officials, county commissioners, mayors, City council members. Power dynamics are very real. And so it's really important to consider who is in the room and where might there be issues of concern or power dynamics that are impacting whether or whether or not people can share what they actually want to share. Another theory, another spectrum that I wanted to share was actually developed by the International Association for Public Participation, otherwise known as IAP2.
This spectrum of participation depicts goals and promises to the public. So some of you may have also seen this as a tool is a pretty popular one, especially around the engagement world. Essentially IAP2 has come up with a spectrum that has five categories for engagement.
You can see going from left to right, we have inform, consult, involves, collaborate, and empower. When we think about inform, essentially the idea is that we will keep you informed. Your promise to the public is keeping people informed. Essentially throughout the whole stages of the project. Consulting is we've come up with some ideas and we want to vet those through you all, so you've got A, B and C, which is your most preferred choice, right? We're starting to gather some input from the public that way. Involving is where you are working with those individuals to address particular concerns, gathering their feedback, and then letting them know how you use their feedback in your decision making. Collaboration is when you have ongoing involvement with a project, and those individuals are providing advice on recommendations for what to do with a project.
And then initially you then get to empower, which is all about citizen power, essentially where they decide what the ultimate decision is. Now, it's not the spectrum that says an inform is worse than empower and empower is worse than inform. It's not really meant to say that, but it's really making us think about like, when do we engage with people, and how do we do it? And an example with Empower, if if it's not really resonating, it would be an election, right? So that's where the residents that are voting have the ability to elect those that are in office to represent them. So when we think about this spectrum, it's just really vital to kind of understand that there's so many different ways to engage with individuals. And intention behind engagement is really, I think, like the secret sauce to making it work.
So intention equals impact, right? The more that you can put thought and consideration into your engagement process, the more whole and all encompassing that it can actually be. And instead of thinking of engagement as sort of this, check the box activity, such as, okay, we're going to update our general plan for our community, so let's bring in people with engagement. So instead of thinking in that kind of way, think of it as two big questions for yourself: The one is how do you plan on engaging with your community, and why? It seems so simple, but to actually ask yourself, how like are you going to use interviews, intercept surveys? Are you going to have informational videos, charettes? Like how do you plan on engaging with your community? And why? Why that strategy? Why interviews? Why charades? Why small groups? Why? So think about the intention behind what you're choosing as a way to engage with your community, and then after you've understood and figured out how to do it, then you have to ask yourself, when? When do you do it? When in the project? When in the project do you engage with the community? And why? I say this because sometimes when we have a project or something that we're working on, we're like, okay, let's, let's bring in the community and engage with them. There are so many steps in a project's process to involve people, right, from the very beginning of scoping the project to figuring out what information is there, gathering it all together, to comparing and contrasting options and to making a decision.
And in each of those steps of the project, you can involve community. How would you do it? Right? So if we were thinking about scoping a project, it's like, okay, maybe we'll put out a survey, a really preliminary survey to see if we're capturing what the public wants. And then maybe we will, then, once we get to the information gathering stage, maybe we'll see if we can put together a task force of local residents that want to put together efforts to kind of research this together. And then maybe we'll do a big open house so we have some options. We'll start to bring people together. There's so many layers to how you can do it, which is makes it so exciting. It's not really this just one off experience. It's like, how do we create the fullness
of this experience so that our residents are involved throughout all stages of it? Something else that I also really want to share and be mindful of, is awareness. So thinking that everyone knows how to be involved. I - This one hits home really, really hard for me because I, I grew up with a single mom. I lived in a lot of different states, and we moved from apartment to apartment usually every other year.
I didn't grow up in the same place. I didn't know that I could get involved with my local government. I didn't know how. And I think when we get into these worlds of engagement, we're working for communities and whatnot, sometimes it's easy to fall into this idea that people know how to get involved. But we need to also understand that not everyone knows how to be involved in the local process, or who to even reach out to. And I think, when we think about engagement, we're like, Wow, people just aren't showing up, you know, like they must just not care. It's like,
do they know how to show up? Have we been clear and consistent with them? Do they know what to expect? Do they know how to reach out to us? You know, I really encourage us to kind of flip the script and think about like, do people know? Because sometimes they don't. Sometimes you have, you know, young families that move in people from different communities, different language barriers, people that are, you know, driving into our communities and not staying in them, etc.. Like there's so many different dynamics that can contribute to how people know how to interact with the community.
And so that is really good to see too. And it just looks like, oh yeah, if anyone's having trouble viewing the full slides message Liz, and you can talk about how to fix them. And so if there are any glitches with those, please let us know. We also want to talk about engagement ghosts as well. Something about a community engagement is that things that happened in the past.
Right, things that happened where mistakes may have been made in your community. There may have been a project that didn't go right. Maybe people were tokenized, or things just happened and people remember.
And when we try to do engagement after those things have happened and we don't recognize them, we don't talk about those broken promises, it really starts to erode at the trust that community members can have in our cities and in our towns. And so even if even if those ghosts may have occurred before you even worked for an organization or a community, it's really important to still take ownership over that. And think about how do I repair the distress that has happened to my community? How do I work towards that? Even if you weren't involved with it. I can't tell you how many times in my line of work where I've had to essentially do that, whether it was from, you know, the organization that I worked for, you know, the baggage of that organization. When I work with a community, I have to understand what the history is within that organization and that community and work through that instead of avoiding it or brushing it underneath the rug.
It's so revitalizing for, I think especially for community members when you can just openly talk about like, yes, we tried this and we failed at this and we want to do better. And also just reminding ourselves that like our communities are not perfect and humans aren't perfect either. And so, things happen, right? And I just I want to encourage you all that, even if things have happened that have been difficult with with residents and with projects, there are paths forward to heal collectively and to take accountability.
And that can go so, so far. So before I segue into a couple of principles around engagement, we wanted to launch a poll question. So we are curious about your community in particular, and we're curious of whether you would consider your community to be more proactive, reactive or non active.
So we're going to launch this survey and see what the responses are. We've got some responses in the chat to thank you. And we're going to give 20 more seconds to respond to this question and see what our responses look like. And I will close the poll in five more, 3, 2 1. Thank you. I'm going to share the results with all of us.
So it looks like we've got 38% more proactive, 41% reactive and 21% non active. Oh, this is a really nice mixture. It's a mixture of all of it.
And I hope that for the most of you you'll be able to stay on for the peer-to-peer. That will be taking place in about 20 minutes, especially for those of you that have proactive engagement. So that way you're able to provide insights and suggestions with others in breakout rooms. Okay, so, thank you all for doing that poll. Next, I want to segue and to a couple of principles, basic principles around engagement that I think are really beneficial for us all to think about and consider. There's six of them.
So the first is establishing a consistent communication stream. The second is follow through on promises and be accountable when they fall through. Third, build intentional, proactive relationships. Fourth, rewrite the script.
Fifth, Embrace conflict. Don't run from it. And lastly, humanize one another. I'm going to dive deeper into each of these basic principles and to share some inspiration around what other communities and humans have done across the country related to these principles. So our first one, establishing a consistent communication stream.
Instead of focusing on how to communicate on a project by project basis, it's really important to focus on how to communicate on an ongoing basis. It's not, "oh, we're doing this, Let's reach out" or "Oh, we're doing this, le'ts reach out," It's really, how do we communicate to our residents on a regular basis? Where does that come from? There are plenty of consistent outlets that can be utilized, such as newsletters. I've seen a number of really awesome mayors, predominantly in Utah, that have done mayors letters where they're sending out every quarter, every month. This is what's going on. This is what's on the radar, is what we're working on. This is what we're struggling with, etc.
Water bills, utility bills, ways you can just give announcements to people that are receiving their materials on a monthly basis. Community bulletin boards, whether they are print or digital town and city websites, just having designated spaces for engagement can be really, really huge. An example that I really like to share with communities is actually Salt Lake City. So Salt Lake City uses the same website link for all community feedback on their projects.
It's SLC.gov/feedback. What I think is so beautiful about this is that there are constantly so many different projects and surveys being put out there and instead of always having a different link and making it confusing, they're like, hey, we're going to have one central web page on our site, that's for all engagement, everything, with our city. And, if you take a survey and you actually just want to know of when future surveys are coming up, you want to be more proactive that way, sign up and we will send you emails whenever there's a new survey or something that requires feedback and insights. Which I think is so cool because it's really inviting those in the community that want to share.
It makes it more accessible for them, brings it directly to their inbox, and they're able to share their feedback with us that way. The second principle, is following through on promises and being accountable when they fall through. If there is distress in a community, focus on taking small steps that are meant to rebuild community trust. People want to be heard.
I wanted to provide a really awesome case study. I had the pleasure of meeting with Mayor John Bauters last October. Mayor Bauters is mayor to a small city called Emeryville in California, it's about 13,000 residents, but it's in a huge metropolitan area. It's a very small land base. And yet so it's it's mixed in a lot of metro. And yet there's so many lessons to be learned from this case study.
So, Mayor Bauters, when he came into office, essentially started receiving a number of complaints from residents. They were saying, hey, I put in this request to public works. There's been this light that's been flashing directly into my window every night. It looks like from a storm something happened. And it just happens every every night. And I've asked public works to handle it and it hasn't happened yet. Mayor Bauters was like, huh, this is interesting.
This is a really small issue and yet it hasn't been addressed yet. So Mayor Baughterss went to the Public Works Division and asked, Hey, I've noticed that there is a complaint that a residents told me about, and I'm curious of why it's taken so long for it to be fixed. That's when Public Works responded and they said, hey, well actually in our process, we just take requests on an ongoing basis where we tackle one issue and then we go to the next or the next. And some of our issues are really, really big, so they take a lot of our time. So it actually might take us weeks before we can actually fix that light.
And Mayor Bauters was like, well, wait a minute, like that doesn't seem right. Why don't we change it up? And so Mayor Bauters then changed it so that 20% of each week would be dedicated towards these small, little tasks. All of a sudden, people that were putting these tiny little requests, that it wouldn't even take more than an hour to fix, were starting to see improvements and results, and it all came from rethinking about what is our system, and how do we stay more accountable to our residents. I think something else that's really cool about Bauters work is usually every week, Bauters will also host a bike tour around Emeryville to talk about development projects and what's going on in the city. And this is a really great opportunity for local residents and visitors to really just figure out what's going on.
And it's an ongoing way to interact with new members of the community, promote active transportation, and just have a better understanding of what's going on on the ground. There's so many different ways to get creative about how we can stay accountable to people and really see results being driven forward. Our third principle is around building intentional, proactive relationships. So don't wait for a project to engage a particular group or demographic in your community. Build relationships now. Understand who is showing up and who isn't, and how can you meet people where they're at? And you have the same people coming to your meetings over and over and over again. You're hearing the same voices over and over again.
And are you asking yourself what other voices are out there? It's such a such an important thing to consider, because relationship should not be transactional. It should not be, we're going to bring you in when we need something, it should really be built on, let's build and support each other as time goes on. and establishing a way to interact with and support different community groups is so important, because showing up matters, right? How many people even know where your town hall is? They might not even know, they might not be that aware of. I wanted to show you a couple of examples of my hometown, actually.
This is in County Lake, Pennsylvania. It's a borough in northwestern Pennsylvania. And it's around 700 residents. We are essentially a little gateway community.
We have the largest natural lake in Pennsylvania. It's only three miles long. But a lot of Pittsburghers, and city residents, will come up in the summer to utilize the lake around there.
And when I was thinking about, okay, where would I build proactive relationships where the people in my hometown, Walmart is one of them. If I were to say where town hall is, I would say it's Walmart. If I want to meet anybody that I went to school with or see anyone that I know, I know that is going to be a Walmart.
I also know that our fire hall is also a great spot for people to go to and they have amazing chicken wings. And I know that on chicken wing night, tons of people are going to be there. And so that's a great spot to go visit.
We also have our own amusement park, and so that's a huge attraction for visitors and for local residents. A great way to interact with people there. We also have an ice house park that was recently built, where we have four stoplights in my town, and so I know that if you're going to drive through Conniet Lake, you're going to pass through Ice House Park.
So what an ideal location to do events, have signs, etc.. And lastly, we also have a frozen custard stand, Hank's, this is actually where I worked for my first job, and Wednesday nights are peanut butter night. And peanut butter night is the most popular of any flavor that whole week.
And so I know that if I'm going to engage with people in my community, Wednesday night would be a great time to go down Hank's and talk to some people. Principal four: rewriting the script. So honestly assessing how community residents can interact with your community.
Is it easy or is it hard? Are your materials outdated? What are you sharing with people and how is it being done? I love this case study. This is from Atlanta, their planning department decided to do a campaign to update the signage for all of their outreach materials, for clarity and for aesthetics. So with the city of Atlanta, they used to have these kinds of signs, right. It's not very inviting. It doesn't look very inviting, at least to me. Right.
And the way that it's written is so archaic as well. Right? Public notice: certificate of appropriateness. The Atlanta Urban Design Commission shall hold a public hearing on application ___ affecting this property on Wednesday. It's hard to understand. People don't tend to talk like that. Right?
So Atlanta said, why don't we update this? Why don't we simplify it? Why don't we create a system where people can see these signs and better understand how to do how to interact with those with those pieces. Right. These signs now include, you know, a large letter. It has direct information on who to contact. And it's just very to the point and very simple. It's really meant to, you know, help people better understand what's going on in the city instead of utilizing really archaic methods that are hard to understand.
Principal 4 would be in the thoughts. And so we're talking about. I also wanted to share too that they're slogan was also "to be clear is to be kind". And I think that as we think about engagement, it's so important for us to consider what are the materials that we're sharing? How are we doing it? Is it resonating with our audience? And can we be creative with what it looks like? Principal five is embracing conflict and not running from it. So do you have a wicked problem, like a really complex problem that you're going through? Utilize your community as your problem-solving enterprise. Bring in your community members to
better understand complex issues and create innovative solutions. If you're a town of five employees, ten employees, 15 employees, there's no assumption that you're going to be able to solve all the town's problems and issues. Collectively bring together your residents, let them know what's going on. I find that when people understand the fullness of the complexity of planning and of development, etc., they have a greater understanding of what's at stake and what options are out there. And when you do interact with people in those spaces and when you do bring them in, always ensure the residents understand how their feedback is going to be utilized.
So where does the project go after residents are involved? And how can they stay up to date on the progress? The last thing you want to do is invite someone in to have to have them share their thoughts for multiple hours and then they don't know what happens with that. Right. Think about if you came to an event and you were sharing a lot of your insights, then you just nothing. It was silent. You would then want to know, like what happened from your feedback. Right.
And it might disincentivize you to do that again. An example of this would actually be in Chicago, Illinois. They utilize a participatory budgeting process, where essentially they give a chunk of money to different wards or districts in their city, and they have citizens submit ideas for how to spend that money for a particular thing, whether it's infrastructure or parks or etc.. And then they have a task force of local residents that will then put together proposals based on the popular choices, and then everyone in the community votes and they figure out like what they want to pay for. And I think that's so empowering and so cool. And if you're a city or community, you're like, we don't know if we can spend this or that.
Talk to your community. Ask them, have them help you decide. And lastly, humanizing one another. This is a really, really big one. So remember to focus on the fullness of people, not just the sides that they're showing you. I'm sure many of you have probably in some sort of a meeting where there have been people that have been really angry and irate and really disregulated, bodily wise, and they might be screaming or yelling.
I want you all in those moments to take a step back and think about the fullness of that person. Think about how they show up when they're with their family, when they're with their friends, when they're happy, when they're at peace. Right. Like, we are seeing one side of people and sometimes it's not their best sides. And I just, I want to encourage us to remember that we are fully human and that we do experience a whole range of emotions. And so it's really important to kind of incorporate centering exercises are ways to kind of calm and disregulate with engagement, to help regulate emotions and enter into more of a calm state.
Something that I like to do as a teacher is when I was teaching more virtually, I didn't know the pulse of my room. Right. I have students that are coming into my classroom for an hour and a half and they'll have, you know, all of their own lives to live. Right. So when they come into my space, I ask them, I'm like, hey, on a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you want to be here? 1 is they don't want to be here at all. 10 is they'd rather be nowhere else. And it helps you understand where they are on that scale.
That way I can adjust in real time depending on where the energy is with my students. And also allowing creativity in their spaces for new thoughts and ideas. Creativity is huge and we are human and we are meant to be creative. A really fun process, if you haven't heard of it, was actually developed by James Rojas who developed the place it project it just place it dot org. Essentially James was thinking about how do I interact with people and talk planning in a non-technical way, right? How can I talk to children? How can I talk to elders in ways where everyone can essentially describe what they want to see in our community? So what James did is he essentially devised this, the set up where he brings in a whole bag of kind of it's kind of like trash, actually.
It's it's like Legos, plant, fake plants, strings, straws, whatever, bottle caps. And he has this whole big bag and just dumps it under a table and says, build the community that you want. And then all of a sudden, kids, elders, everybody is grabbing things and are making their community. And then James will walk around, and see what people are creating and talk to them about it. What's important to you? Why do you have this here? Why is this located here? Why is this important, etc.?
And all of a sudden you're bringing planning into a much more accessible way than talking about technical things in a public meeting. Right. So how do we meet people wherever they need to be? And lastly, expressing genuine gratitude to your community for their time and their insights even is something that we can't buy, right? It's something that's so, so valuable. And so when we have residents that that want to engage with us and that are putting forth those efforts, it is so vital to express genuine gratitude for those individuals. And recognizing that work, recognizing those volunteers and those changemakers that are really willing to put in all of that work. Okay. So I just shared a lot of information in this short amount of time, and I hope that some of you some of it is resonating with you all.
And so we'd love to utilize the chat to kind of gather some insights from you all. And our first question is: what is one insight, observation or takeaway from the session thus far? We just put the prompt into the chat. But yeah, just from all the things that I just shared with you, what's kind of resonating? Mm. Creative engagement. Yeah. Try to think out of the box.
Spend time fixing little things. Yeah. What are those? Tiny, little easy to access issues that can be fixed? Well, that's clearly not the subject. Well, that's very kind of you. Kevin, thank you.
Yeah. Formal. Yeah. Engagement hierarchies. Right. Like there's all different ways to engage with people. Consistency is important for building the habit of consistent engagement.
Yes. Yes, I love this. Sharing problems and boundaries of the public. Yes. Right. Like you don't have to be perfect. We're not perfect. We never will be. That's what makes as beautiful as communities, as people, etc.. And so bringing them in, letting them talk about it, having them help us be creative, right? Considering the whole person receiving feedback about proposed project.
Yes. Oh, I love this. This is beautiful to hear. Thank you so much for sharing. We'd also like to ask you all a second question, which is: To what extent would additional training in the how of reengaging your community be helpful? for you others in your community or other in our communities? So in thinking about what I talked about, essentially I'd talk about the what is it beneficial to get into the how, right? So kind of how you would do these sorts of things. And I'm just kind of curious for your community, what might be beneficial? Any thoughts? Honestly, feel free to throw those in at any point.
Are they really beneficial for us to know? MM. Thank you, Mary. Barbara, very helpful for when the mayor and the council and staff. Yeah. So maybe thinking about like how do we actually translate this and put things on the ground? Definitely. And then yeah.
Any other thoughts that might come to mind are there? Thank you, Nancy. We're always trying to gather ideas and figure out, yeah, what might work. Super helpful to mix things up here from the usual engagement check with box.
Yeah. Like, how do we get creative? How do we think out of the box? And that's just the thing like it can be the simplest things, right? Like Atlanta, they're like, hey, this is really confusing. So just taking a look at all of your materials and trying to update them, also bringing in students and interns and having competitions and thinking about, okay, if we don't have the time or capacity to do this, are there people in our community that do? Yeah. Written guide best practices in case studies could be good templates. Totally helpful to see examples from other communities.
Absolutely. So we'd love to gather some insights too, especially from those of you that shared that you have proactive communities with engagement. We would really, really love to be able to gather some insights around just what you're doing and how we can share it with others. I also wanted to leave some space for just any final thoughts or ideas before we segue into the interactive portion.
It's not scary. If you're afraid to interact with people. It's going to be in a really small, little breakout room, silent me, really, really fun. And so I really hope that you all are able to stay on.
Additionally, I just wanted to leave another moment just to kind of see if there's anything else that comes to mind. Your thoughts about things. We do go through the entire chat and it really helps us to gather those insights and suggestions there.