"Public engagement" is about knowing your neighbors, not planning a meeting

man wearing a hat that says "love your neighbor"
Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash

By Rachel Quednau on August 27, 2020

"Getting community input on government processes and projects is a fickle business.  It typically involves following a pre-planned path of sending out a couple notices (rarely in the places where community members are likely to find them, particularly residents who don’t frequent the government website or email lists), hosting a few public forums where people are invited to make brief comments, and then issuing a final decision on the project. (Spoiler alert: The original plan will probably pass with minimal modifications.)

As we’ve written before at Strong Towns, most public engagement processes are worthless or worse than worthless.  But it’s not solely the fault of government leaders or staff. Most are just trying to do their jobs, and this is the method that’s been used for years. It might even be written into city law. With dwindling municipal budgets and overworked staff, it’s a heavy lift to ask someone to invent a completely new process.

So what’s a better way to get public input on a project? It starts with throwing out the very foundation of this question. We shouldn’t be seeking public input for a project; we should get to know our neighbors so that their needs are front and center in our mind, and create proposals, ideas or projects from there. This is work that anyone can and should do—elected official or just regular resident who cares about making their community stronger.  You have the ability and the power to start doing this listening and connecting today."

Read the full story at Strong Towns

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