Many municipalities shy away from engaging their communities in fear of the inevitable complaint volume that may generate. However- if done right- public engagement leads to volunteerism and a citizenry acting as your ally, and could even lead to funding.
We worked with a municipality that needed significant funding for road maintenance. They had been passed up for regional and state funding several times. One of the cornerstones to gain funding is engaging feedback from the community.
An initial group of people showed up ready to complain about their street, road, bike lane or walking path. They were led through the hurdles that the City faced in terms of planning and funding. Maps were laid on the table and written on. Key planning documents were highlighted. While no promises were made, voices were heard. After City staff educated this group on the hurdles and limitations, and the concerns and complaints were heard from the public, an interesting thing happened. Both City staff and the public converged toward possible solutions. Then an amazing thing happened. The group wanted to form an informal committee to try and solve some of the problems, and to help bring funding to the City.
The Active Transportation Committee was formed and they helped bring well over $1.5 million in funding to the City. They advocated for bike lanes and walking paths and safer routes to schools. They even advocated for a bike and pedestrian bridge over a busy highway that intersected the City. Now the City boasts several green bike lanes, an Active Transportation Plan, a Safe Routes to Schools Plan and several road infrastructure projects underway united with active forms of transportation. The funnest thing this Committee did, however, was to form a Rolling School Bus leading kids to school by bike.
Additionally, time was spent reaching out to various other committees that served people with disabilities and people who depended on bus transport for their livelihood. This is part of any of our client offerings; to ensure equity. Any future grant opportunity will have the right group of citizens to support it but more importantly, the community benefitted for the long haul with this amazing group.
Other projects that we started at the community level are the Sharp Solutions for Home Medicines and Fryer to Fuel projects. Reach out to us for a no-fee consultation to see if our experience can benefit what you are trying to achieve.