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Successful street design projects rely heavily on effective communication and stakeholder engagement strategies to help constituents understand the project scope and impact.
When a project site and initial scope is identified, engage constituents through workshops, meetings, site visits, and presentations to find out what matters to them. Local constituents can offer critical insight to supplement the technical expertise of design professionals. Involving them in the process will help develop long-term stewards of the street, keeping it safe and well-maintained.
Identify effective communication and engagement strategies that are appropriate for each context and stakeholder group. Work together to clarify long-term goals, specific considerations, and top priorities. Maintain ongoing communications and engagement throughout the process of planning, design, and construction of a street, and continue to communicate successes or lessons learned as the project matures.
Effective Communication and Engagement Strategies
Spend Time On Site
Meaningful discussion about the future of a street requires experiencing its current conditions, and observing how different people use the space.
Understand Current Conditions
Discussing potential trade-offs between different uses in a limited space requires understanding spatial and functional constraints. Confirm dimensioned drawings during site visits or conduct on-site measurements to build accurate plans and sections, and use these as a base for redesign.
Offer Workshops, Meetings, and Presentations
Invite constituents to gather and discuss site conditions, identify opportunities, set visions, and clarify priorities. Offer multiple meeting times and choose locations near the site so local stakeholders of various demographics can easily attend. Use input and feedback from various constituents to inform designs.
Try to understand people’s concerns. At times, misunderstanding project goals and impacts or the lack of meaningful engagement can result in a lack of community support for the vision.
Know the Audience
Adapt the message and presentation to suit the target audience. Avoid jargon or overly technical data that may lead to confusion. Offer stories, providing local examples and memorable anecdotes that can be easily remembered and repeated. Provide translation or use multiple languages when needed.
Think Long Term
Consider asking people how they want their city to look and feel in 20 years or for the next generation. Using a longer time frame can assist in reducing the level of fear many people have about changing the area they live or work in.
Find Local Champions
Identify key players in the local community and help them understand the benefits of an improved street. It is easier for the local champions to further communicate with the community about benefits of the street project.
Use examples of similar projects from other places to help people see already constructed improvements. In spite of diverse nature and geographic variations, many of the challenges cities face are similar and strategies can be easily adapted from one place to another.
Identify relevant scientific evidence to help people understand the multiple benefits of a street improvement. For example, show that the designs can reduce urban heat island effect by planting trees, that more sustainable and active mobility choices can mean healthier citizens, or that fewer on-street parking spots can mean more space for other uses.
Identify the most appropriate media to engage various stakeholders. Certain populations engage more with digital online media, some with radio and printed news, and others with visual drawings and videos. Online and in-person surveys can be an efficient way to gather important information, and participatory mapping can give the community a chance to feel that they are active contributors.
Engage the Press
Proactively engage local press to keep them informed. Ensuring that they have accurate information about a street project can assist in building awareness and communicating success. When proposed street transformations or new construction do not balance the needs of different users, engage the media to raise awareness and build support for alternative designs that put people first.
Engage the Youth
It is important to expand the community involvement to include youth. Young people bring innovative ideas and need-based solutions. They can be involved in the decision-making process and can be motivated to help activate and maintain their neighborhood streets.
Adapted by Global Street Design Guide published by Island Press.
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