Greater inclusion is key to better engagement
The City is making concerted efforts to reach and engage greater cross sections of the community in alignment with the Council Initiative on Public Engagement’s call for more diversity in public engagement. “Supporting the participation of individuals and groups who don’t typically engage with the City is paramount for ensuring greater inclusion in public engagement,” says Office of Public Engagement Manager, Cory Segin.
This effort was evident in the recent engagement process undertaken for the Mature Neighbourhood Overlay (MNO) Review. A set of 24 additional zoning regulations that are added on top of the basic zoning in mature areas, the MNO covers 107 neighbourhoods and helps ensure new infill housing in mature neighbourhoods remains sensitive to the surrounding community.
From the outset of the project, the team involved wanted to ensure their engagement approach would meet participants’ needs and expectations, and would go beyond engaging typical stakeholders.
Over five phases of public engagement, events were hosted in locations convenient for citizens. The team reached out to multicultural communities (via Multicultural Health Brokers), newcomers, youth and seniors. Social media was a key success factor in both reaching and engaging those diverse voices to ensure they were heard. As a result, the MNO Review was one of the most extensive public engagement processes the City has done to date.
“We felt it was important to understand what cultural groups felt was an important component of their communities as well as what the next generation of home buyers are expecting in Edmonton,” says Colton Kirsop, Senior Planner, Zoning Bylaw, Development and Zoning Services
Over 7,800 residents took part in the process, which included a range of activities such as:
- Stakeholder group meetings (e.g., Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues and the home building industry)
- A Jane’s Walk in the Bonnie Doon area
- Interactive drop-in sessions (where a 3D model was used)
- Presentations and Q & A sessions with groups including the City of Edmonton Youth Council, planning students at the University of Alberta, and audiences at local seniors centres
- Hands-on facilitated workshops
- Resident interviews
- Pop-up engagements
“We really focused on reaching out and engaging citizens that don’t often have an opportunity to come to the City’s usual open houses,” says Colton. “So our engagement process included online surveys that people could do from the comfort of their home.”
The project team also tailored the supporting communications materials, including a What is Zoning? booklet to explain complicated concepts related to the MNO in a way that made sense to those participating in engagement.
“The MNO team were very open to being innovative and unconventional in their approach,” says Cory. “They focused on reaching Edmontonians experiencing barriers to engagement so all voices could be included in the process, which is one of our primary public engagement goals at the City.”
The team also went to great lengths to report back to those who participated how their input resulted in further refinements to the proposal to City Council. “We wanted to be transparent about how input shaped the outcomes because that builds better relationships between the City and citizens, as well as helped citizens have more confidence in our process,” says Colton. “We weren’t shy about identifying where people disagreed with us and where there were points of contention — that information is still very important for decision making.”
Capping off the engagement process, the project team circulated the draft amendments to all stakeholders, giving them until mid-December 2016 to provide any further comments. The proposed MNO Zoning Bylaw amendments will be presented today to City Council’s Urban Planning Committee for approval.
Colton adds, “I found that with the engagement process being as thorough as it was, in hearing from many community voices, we were able to better understand what citizens wanted. And as professionals, we’re more confident in what we’re delivering to City Council.”
Public information sessions are being held this month on how the City is transforming the way we engage with citizens. This is based on a renewed framework for public engagement developed through the work of the Council Initiative on Public Engagement and the creation of a new policy going to Council for approval this spring.
|February 23, 2017 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.Lister Centre (Maple Leaf Room), University of Alberta main campus11613 – 87 Avenue|
|February 24, 2017 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.Central Lions Recreation Centre (Small Auditorium)11113 – 113 Street|
|February 25, 2017 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Clareview Community Recreation Centre (Multi-Purpose Room 4, Main Hall)3804 – 139 Avenue|