[WEBINAR] A Recipe for Award-Winning Online Community Engagement Featuring ARC

Atlanta, GA highway

This highly visual webinar presents research findings, proven best practices, practical tips and award-winning case studies to guide agencies towards the successful application of online community engagement for planning projects. Participants walk away with an understanding about how to leverage digital engagement to achieve unprecedented results using cost-effective tools.

The webinar showcases a wide range of outstanding planning projects throughout Georgia as well as North and South Carolina. Our special guests from the Atlanta Regional Commission join us to talk about The Atlanta Region’s Plan, one of the most innovative and successful outreach efforts we’ve ever seen. They discuss the innovative ways they combined online and targeted face to face community engagement to involve over 25,000 community members to help plan the region. They also share advice for agencies seeking to improve the diversity and effectiveness of their community engagement efforts and talk about the positive difference that broad community support is making as they move forward.

Watch Recording

View Slides

This webinar featured two presenters: Dave Biggs from MetroQuest followed by Melissa Roberts from the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Participant Comments

Thanks so much for the great comments and kudos. Here’s some of our favorites:
“Very informative!”
“Great webinar for public outreach. Very interesting. The tool looks very effective!”
“It was good to learn tips for engagement like how a registration page upfront eliminates 90% of potential responses.”
“One of the better webinars I’ve heard. Graphics were great.”
“Great webinar. Really good info, efficient, relevant to my work.”
“Interesting, upbeat, helpful as we will be writing a comp plan over the next two years.”
“Great presentation that had a lot of good visual examples and tips and tricks on engaging the public with current and groundbreaking tools.”
“Public engagement has always been a tough job. This webinar was great – highlights quickly what is working”
Average rating: 4.75/5 stars

[Wow, thanks!]

AICP CM Credits

Here is the direct link to claim your AICP credits from the APA. Note that the date trips people up. This webinar is part of a series so they instructed us to set it up as an “on-demand” session so you’ll notice that the start and end are a year apart.

Bonus Case Study: NashvilleNext

Mentioned briefly in the webinar, this case study of the NashvilleNext process shows why they were the 2016 winners of the APA 2016 National Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan.


Here are the questions that were raised by participants that we didn’t get a chance to respond to during the session.

Questions for Dave from MetroQuest

Q: MetroQuest looks like useful software. What is the best way to get more information about it?
A: [From Dave] I apologize for not being able to provide more in-depth information about MetroQuest due to the educational nature of this session. The best place to start would be to connect with us by filling out the Contact Us form. We will be pleased to make sure you get the information you need. In the meantime, here is a quick video to give you a better sense of the software.

Q: I was curious as to whether by using the MetroQuest software, if you do reach out to a larger demographic, do communities see things coming through that the staff may not have thought of.
A: [From Dave] This certainly seems to be the case since we hear this comment frequently. The reality is that the types of people who agencies are used to hearing from represent a very narrow cross section of the community. MetroQuest clients report that the feedback that is received online is more positive and constructive than what generally comes out at public meetings. I think this is due to the fact that many who attend public meetings are fired up about the project, often not in a good way.

Secondly, new information tends to emerge about community preferences since MetroQuest is specifically well-suited to reach a broader demographic that, in the past, has not been represented at all.

A good example that comes to mind is a recent project about cycling. The voice that was missing in previous bike planning efforts in this community was the large group of people who do not currently bike but would be willing to start if certain changes were made. In the past they were missing because they did not identify as cyclists and were not passionate about the topic. It turned out that this missing demographic was uniquely suited to identify what changes would encourage the largest mode shift towards biking. By making is very easy to participate and getting the benefit of social media sharing this project was able to hear from over 7,000 people and they received over 50,000 inputs from the community including some valuable new insights for the bike plan. [Editorial comment: It’s case studies like these that make it all worthwhile.]

Questions for Melissa from Atlanta Regional Commission

Q: Address measure of effectiveness beyond on-line usage and zip code mapping such as reaching under-represented populations.
A: [From Melissa] Currently, we measure our effectiveness in reaching under-represented populations through accounting for the number of people who attend various meetings, as well as an inventory of the community organizations ARC works with on a regular basis. Specifically we maintain a current listing of community-based organizations and coalitions focused on organizing, serving and meeting the needs of under-represented populations. We then determine our current level of interaction and support of these organizations, and develop strategies for strengthening our relationships with them, such as regular face to face meeting times, attendance at their special events, and on-going communication. It is our intent to continue to develop robust outcomes for reaching lower-income and under-represented populations. I would welcome any advice or best practices related to measuring the effectiveness of engaging with harder to reach populations.

Q: What strategy has worked best so far engaging the low income, minority, and Hispanic communities?
A: [From Melissa] I believe that our best work in engaging low income, minority, and Hispanic communities has been face to face meetings, both in smaller and larger groups. These meetings are most effective at reaching these under-served populations when we host them in venues where a greater percentage of low income, minority and Hispanic communities live. In particular, our most successful engagement activities (measured through the number of attendees and/or the depth of community input generated) has been when we partner with trusted community partners in co-designing and hosting face to face events within the community (and not at our own offices). The outreach booths at various festivals and events within communities are effective at generating awareness of ARC and our work, as well as, identifying new contacts to follow up with for future, more in-depth relationship building and dialogues.

[from Dave] Participants might be interested in this webinar recording on the topic, “Engaging Vulnerable & Disadvantaged People in Planning.” It was so popular we had to hold a second one which also filled to capacity so we posted it as an on-demand resource.

Thanks again for your interest and participation in this webinar.

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