The City is getting better at engaging citizens in more meaningful ways.
One such example is ELEVATE, a Council Initiative focused on supporting the vibrancy and sustainability of Edmonton’s neighbourhoods through collaborative, multi-jurisdictional planning.
The ELEVATE team and community builders, including community recreation coordinators and social workers, collaborated with the grassroots Greater Hardisty Community Sustainability Coalition to create a vision and way forward for five neighbourhoods in southeast Edmonton.
Through this process, the 101 Avenue commercial corridor was identified as an area with a lot of potential to address many issues identified during a community visioning session, including safety, seniors housing and economic sustainability. So this past spring, the Greater Hardisty Community Sustainability Coalition, ELEVATE and Sustainable Development planners partnered to create a vision for 101 Avenue.
“This demonstrates important cultural shifts in the City’s approach to public engagement, particularly through the City and community working together towards a common purpose where relationship-building and open communication forms the foundation of the engagement process earlier on in the project,” says Claire Ashton, Project Coordinator for the Council Initiative on Public Engagement. “And these changes reflect the City’s new vision, definition of public engagement and guiding principles for improving public engagement practices now and into the future.”
The first public meeting was held on June 21, 2016 with over 212 participants. Armed with only background information, a large aerial map of the avenue and a huge blank piece of paper, the City asked residents what they wanted for the corridor. The blank sheet of paper quickly transformed as ideas evolved and were added. A ‘mind map’ was then created to capture all of the values, principles and ideas that people wanted to share. Rather than telling or showing, the evening was about listening to citizens.
Several other “pop-up” events took place over the summer to solicit input from people who don’t generally attend public meetings. These were designed to reach residents where they gather, and to emphasize that residents are being asked to shape their own futures. The input received formed the basis of draft concepts that were brought back to residents at a second public meeting held on September 30, 2016.
This second meeting had equally great attendance and satisfaction levels. Community residents commented on various street and urban design options, while City staff explained the options’ pros and cons, and listened to feedback. The next and final round of engagement will include a more complete concept plan, which will be presented early next year.
“Tapping into the community groups’ passion and perspectives was key for success. By working together, each partner had a valuable role to play”, says Jackie Araujo, Director of Citizen Services in the Neighbourhoods Branch.
The coalition and the Forest/Terrace Heights Community League pulled out all the stops to promote the events, as well as provided childcare and refreshments. And all the work teams helped to create enlightening and interesting events that served as a new way of engaging with — and listening to — citizens.