[WEBINAR] Engaging Disadvantaged People in Planning

mother and daughter using laptop to fill out online public engagement survey

The best public involvement is inclusive and increasingly it is being enforced as a requirement of planning efforts. At the same time, technology is changing the way we communicate. In response, the use of online public engagement is rapidly expanding, whether it’s on your laptop at home, kiosks in the community center or the smartphone in your pocket. However, when it comes to engaging vulnerable and disadvantaged people the question is – does technology help or hinder? This session presented a series of case studies, best practices and tips to guide project leaders that are attempting to engage some of the most difficult to reach citizens.

Watch Recording

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Below are the comments and questions from participants that were received during the Q&A session.

Q: What software did you use for the online survey example?
A: The examples shown were from our own project portfolio using the MetroQuest Public Involvement Software. If you are interested, feel free to learn more here.

Q: How much does a kiosk cost?
A: MetroQuest has a preferred pricing arrangement with a firm that rents kiosk at discounted rates. Full sized branded kiosks rent for under $1000 for the first month and about $600 after that including return shipping. Smaller ones are about $200 per month. Software support for kiosks is included with MetroQuest. Please give us a call if you would like more information about kiosks.

Q: What if you have limited resources, which method is cheaper and effective?
A: When done well online engagement can yield the best results for the least cost per participant so that is typically the best place to start for projects with a limited budget.

Q: Has anyone done this with the TIP after a MTP?
A: MetroQuest has been used many times to facilitate the public engagement for TIP projects. Here’s an example you can play with. These projects typically use our “Project Selection” screen among others. We are currently working with NCDOT on 14 TIP projects throughout the state for their STIP process. Stay tuned for that. Feel free to use the comment section below if people are aware of other projects.

Q: Government entities tend to be less receptive to techniques like this because of time, resources, etc. How can we convince agencies to adopt such strategies?
A: The majority of our projects at MetroQuest are for government agencies so I think many of them are seeing the benefits of broader and more inclusive public engagement. It may be helpful to highlight the benefits to agencies that are less receptive. Here three short articles on the benefits for agencies.

The ROI of Better Engagement
Beyond the Opposition – How to Engage the Moderates
6 Benefits of Digital Community Engagement

Q: What are a few more examples of successful pop up events? Has anyone held a successful pop up event around public health/community health initiatives?
A: One you might want to look at was the Juice Up 412 Community Engagement Project. I’m sure some of the attendees have examples to share in the comments below.

Q: How could youth be engaged with more?
A: I know from our own work that people under 25 can be difficult to reach. They often have no problem with the technology, but their minds are simply not on planning. If engaging youth is critical to your project it may be necessary to go to events where young people will be and encourage them to engage using tablets, their own smartphones or other tactics that don’t require technology at all (dots posters, idea walls, etc). We can help you set up tablets with MetroQuest for use in this capacity. It’s pretty easy but does require someone to take the time to find events and set up a table or engagement station. Technology like Textizen allows people to simply text responses to survey questions which may appeal to text-crazed youth.

Q: Can you safely assume that many people have smart phones? What about digital divide in how the phones are used?
A: The penetration of smartphones has been growing steadily over the past 5 years. A study done in 2014 showed that 61.3% of mobile subscribers from households with income less than $25k/year now own a smartphone. These number indicate to us that smartphones are an increasingly important option for community engagement. I would also caution that several other convenient options need to be provided to ensure that people without smartphones are able to participate.

Q: Some of our communities have many New Americans, many of whom don’t speak English. Does anyone have examples of success with reaching individuals who don’t speak English, and for whom a digital option may not be possible?
A: One of the participants noted an interesting example from Toronto below. I would suggest that peer to peer engagement techniques might be most effective in this situation. If you could find a bilingual community leader that you could train and support, they could conduct short community engagement exercises in a peer to peer manner. This could be as simple as a dot poster exercise or an idea wall at an existing event where these people are gathered.

Q: BTW Metroquest, are you hiring?
A: We are always interested in connecting with smart and talented people to add to our growing team. Please feel free to check out our careers page.

Participant Feedback

“What’s worked well for you? How have you broken down barriers?”

  • We have been most successful with pop-up events. Fairly easily we reached 800 people in St. Louis where community engagement is difficult.
  • Something we take as a best practice: when possible, provide food.
  • By providing child care and pizza we were able to attract people who might not have otherwise attended.
  • Some communities have youth groups, based at the rec centers or even congregat SB.
  • We have set up booths at church festivals, feed stores, and other community events.
  • I’ve heard and witnessed, many people with low wealth (low income term can be demeaning) even have smartphones. Goes back to your point about most ppl having access to internet only on their smartphone. (Dave: My apologies. I was not aware of the sensitivity around the term low income. Duly noted.)
  • We have reached ESL groups by going to citizenship classes, church groups, and house meetings.
  • Re: working with newcomer communities. In Toronto, we’ve done sessions with settlement agency workers – they can then pass on info/knowledge to their clients. Also, settlement agencies work in libraries and schools, and their workers often need to provide content for workshops they hold.

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  1. Julie Beaubien on January 5, 2016 at 11:39 am

    Hi Dave – finally had a chance to review this presentation and it was great! Lots of great ideas. 🙂 Best wishes and thank you for creating this great resource.

  2. Ashley Traut on January 6, 2016 at 9:42 am

    Great presentation, Dave. Thanks very much for sharing. I plan to make it required viewing for our engagement team.

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