314-399-8812 info@investstl.org

Create access

Help residents understand the work and how they can participate in the plan in a meaningful way while responding to and integrating what they learn from the process.

#13 OUTREACH

We raise awareness and understanding with our neighbors about the planning process, why it exists, and everyone’s role in it.

What We Learned

Outreach and engagement are often viewed as the same thing, but there are important differences that determine how you interact with stakeholders in a planning process. Outreach is defined by Boston University as “an effort by individuals in an organization or group to connect its ideas or practices to the efforts of other organizations, groups, specific audiences or the general public.” Engagement is more about inclusive decision-making and building trust. We expand on that in the next play (jump to Resident-Centered Engagement). In community development, outreach happens in various ways, directions, and among different groups.

  1. Outreach starts with residents reaching out to one another to find common pain points or future visions.
  2. Then outreach is utilized to select resident leaders.
  3. From there, residents may do outreach to local organizations or politicians about their needs.
  4. Local organizations and governments may do outreach to residents to inform them of their services.
  5. Consultants do outreach on behalf of residents, government and organizations to reach their planning objectives, and
  6. Residents continually reach out to each other to get feedback throughout the process.

The more people and organizations have an accurate understanding about the work they all do, the better connections and progress can be made toward mutual goals. In resident led neighborhood planning, outreach is a crucial step to building solidarity and meaningful connections between stakeholders.

weCollab Highlight

Outreach in the weCollab process was approached differently by phase and looked a bit like this in the early phases:

  1. First, there was outreach to resident leaders to form the Steering Committee. The residents who initially solicited funding collaborated with their partners to create a Call to Action document, an Application, and method for selecting the Steering Committee members.
  2. The residents reached out and recruited people from outside the neighborhood to evaluate the applicants for Steering Committee members.
  3. Then, outreach for leadership occurred at each phase of the planning process to keep the group active and engaged with fresh energy.

“We wanted to make sure people had all the resources they needed to engage in the unique ways they may need to engage.” – Treena Thompson, Steering Committee Advisor and initial funding applicant team member.

weCollab used a variety of tools to spread the word about the plan. The Administrative Support for the planning process, Cornerstone Corporation, helped to establish a website, QR codes linked to surveys, and connection forms. Ambassadors went door to door announcing major milestones and events around the planning process, and a mailer was sent to inform residents when the plan was up for its adoption hearing. Updates in local newsletters, email blasts, and social media were other methods used. Ambassadors and Steering Committee members also attended community events and neighborhood association meetings to spread information and announcements.

PRACTICE

  • Mail surveys to residents in the planning neighborhood to discover what they know about the planning process and why it’s occurring. Include links or QR codes to online surveys as well as printed versions recipients can return by mail.
  • Brainstorm questions you might ask someone who wants to be part of leading the planning effort.
PRO-TIP:

PRO-TIP: Study different methods of engaging the public and your neighbors using the International Association for Public Participation’s Toolbox.

HUDDLE UP!

  • How do you and your neighbors currently learn about what’s happening in your neighborhood?

  • What are the busiest intersections or places in your neighborhood that you can explore using as a point of outreach

  • Using your planning timeline as a guide, what messages shared when would be helpful for you to reach out to your neighbors, organizations, and other stakeholders?

  • Consider your service population, funders, and partners. Who needs to know what’s going on in the planning process?
  • What ways have worked in the past for reaching different groups within your neighborhood, like youth, older adults, renters, limited English speakers, etc?
  • How can you integrate information about the planning process into your existing communications to residents and other stakeholders?
  • Using the planning timeline as a guide, what messages shared when would be helpful for outreach to residents and other stakeholders?
  • How can your team and the resident leaders work together to leverage each of your strengths for an effective outreach strategy?
  • What past lessons can you use to help outreach in this community, particularly for typically harder to reach groups like youth, older adults, renters, and limited English speakers?
  • Through funding and other resources, how can you support a robust outreach strategy for the planning process?
  • What, if any, connections do you have within the neighborhood that you can share or support alignment of outreach for the process between groups?
  • How can you keep your network up to date during the process and increase the chances of other funders being ready to invest when planning moves to implementation?
  • What existing channels into the neighborhood do you have to get information to residents that can be leveraged for this process?

  • What ways have worked in the past for reaching different groups in other neighborhoods, like youth, older adults, renters, limited English speakers, etc?

  • How can your departments and the resident leaders work together to leverage each of your strengths for an effective outreach strategy?

#14 RESIDENT-CENTERED ENGAGEMENT

We involve residents in decisions about their neighborhood every step of the way.

What we Learned

Engagement is one of the most important components of a truly resident-led process. It is different from outreach and has more to do with the level at which people interact with the project. Citizen Lab says community engagement “means bringing the community into the decision-making process, streamlining execution, and creating a feeling of mutual trust between community members and their representatives.”

It can be a tool to shift decision-making power from elected officials, developers, and market pressures to residents. Involving residents in brainstorming and decision-making processes to inform solutions can create a strong plan based on real lived experiences. Creating access in the form of clear volunteer work areas, onboarding processes, and access to project knowledge make residents more willing to engage. When residents can see the value of their efforts in the process, and how it affects their lives, they will be more motivated to participate.

“I understood that this would affect me and my household, so I wanted to get involved.” – Khatib Waheed, Steering Committee Member

As with most things in this playbook, a resident-led approach requires a shift in behavior from traditional practices. Many residents are familiar with big meetings and poster boards where feedback is collected, but still feel excluded and disconnected from the process. The messenger is just as important as the message. It was important to have engagement led by folks who were familiar with the community and who were respectful and passionate about engaging neighbors. They pushed the planning partner to simplify messaging so that everyone understood. “Engagement will take different forms throughout the process, but it is ongoing and never really stops.“ – Vontriece McDowell, Legacy Neighborhood Solidarity Partner, Invest STL

Planning partners are especially well positioned to tap into empathy to design an experience where participation in planning is easy and meaningful. For example, one area where planning partners might be able to help is creating paths of talent and energy into the work. What will the experience be like for new people joining the effort?

weCollab Highlight

The weCollab planning partner, YARD & Co., proposed a model that paid residents to be project ambassadors during the planning process. They chose seven residents to organize pop ups. YARD prepared materials for the ambassadors to collect data,, spread the basics of the project and associated events, and get feedback from residents on components of the plan as they were developed. These pop-ups were intended to reach folks who may not typically attend a community meeting. The ambassadors reported to Cornerstone Corporation as administrative support and were paid as contractors.

Resident Engagement

by April Walker, Lead Ambassador | Create Access

Hear the Lead Ambassador share more about her experience with engagement online

“Be invisible”] was YARD’s approach to resident-led engagement. It refers to the way they take a back seat at public presentations and interactions with other stakeholders to uplift resident voices They equipped residents to speak confidently and intelligently about the plan. They could tell the approach was successful when residents engaged organically through experience.

The residents’ knowledge of the neighborhood geography helped them to contact harder to reach residents to fill engagement gaps. For example, they noted that the voice of renters and young Black men were largely missing from survey responses. The ambassadors held pop-ups at the gas station, parks on main streets, and apartment buildings to make sure these perspectives were included in the collection of feedback . The insights learned from this process informed plan recommendations.

“The hardest thing was trying to convince the residents that as a collective voice we have power. It was so uplifting and encouraging hearing people tell what they love about the neighborhood. “…some things people said that they loved about the West End were seeing Black people working in their yards, fixing up their homes, really caring about the community, and the bus line – in the West End it’s so easy to hop on a bus and go anywhere in the city that they need to go.” – April Walker, Ambassador

PRACTICE! 

Think about your next engagement and consider these questions as you plan: What do you want to engage your neighbors about? Why? What is the likelihood of people being where you plan to engage them? Do they speak the same language? Do they have time and attention to interact with you or your information? Moreover, what will they care about most? If you’re not sure, survey residents before to inform them of your plan to engage them on a particular topic.

Create drafts of the materials you plan to use in your engagement effort (fliers, letters, questionnaire, presentation boards, etc.) and circle any words that aren’t easy to understand. Download Phase 1 Tactics.

PRO-TIP:

Role play with the materials to see how it feels to use them, then make any edits according to what you experienced.

HUDDLE UP!

  • When your neighborhood has previously made decisions, who was involved, what information was provided beforehand, and how was input gathered before making the decision?

  • Reflecting on a time your voice wasn’t included in a process that affected your neighborhood, what’s one extra step you wish the organizers took so you could participate meaningfully?

  • Who are well connected residents within your neighborhood who can encourage neighbors with different interests and experiences to participate in the process?

  • Who are well connected residents within the neighborhood who can encourage neighbors with different interests and experiences to participate in the process?

  • When decisions have been made for the neighborhood previously, what methods were used to exclude or include residents in the input gathering process that can be learned from?

  • What strengths or resources can your organization leverage to meaningfully bring residents with differing backgrounds and experiences and their ideas into this process?

  • How can your team help resident leaders feel confident and prepared to speak about the plan when engaging their neighbors for feedback?

  • If you couldn’t use maps or form surveys, how could you learn how residents feel about a specific intersection, block, or building without programming the experience?

  • What simple tools or resources could your team create to help all residents understand, speak to, and discuss ideas proposed in the planning process?

  • How can you organize funding to be flexible and timely for engagement to move at the pace, depth, and shape needed in the moment?

  • How might your view on success be adjusted to fully support resident-centered and responsive engagement?

  • From your investments in similar efforts, are there practices, lessons, or partnerships that can be leveraged to deepen engagement in this process?

  • How might your policies or processes present barriers to a rich, resident-centered engagement process?

  • Which of your current communications channels or processes can supplement and extend engagement beyond the planning process to become a consistent feedback loop with neighborhood stakeholders?

  • How can you collaborate with the planning consultants to translate technical terms and concepts for residents to absorb, consider, and lead discussion on with their neighbors?

#15 prepare to respond

We are intentional about making information clear.

What we Learned

Preparing to Respond in a resident-led process involves approaching ideas with dignity, respect, and intention. In neighborhoods that have historically endured the results of systemic anti-Black racism, it is important to understand the history and dynamics of the neighborhood and how that impacts the way people choose to interact or respond. Meeting deadlines and standards is important, but must sometimes take second priority to opportunities for trust and relationship building in a resident-led process. It’s about managing and flexing time to suit needs and adopt solutions as they emerge.

For example, when a planning partner is returning to a conversation with a solution to an issue residents raised, the planning partner can prepare by outlining their process for coming to that solution rather than jumping right into the solution. Sometimes it helps to over-communicate in work as complex and ever-changing as neighborhood planning. For example, posing a decision for a group to make may not be as easy without outlining the pros and cons of each option.

Setting information in formats like pro/con lists, timelines, and organization charts go a long way in communicating and responding to ideas. These tools help ensure residents understand how they are contributing to the planning process. Preparing in advance how the group will face new situations helps prepare everyone to be most effective in their role and ensures residents remain in leadership as the planning process evolves.

weCollab Highlight

One bit of feedback residents shared about working with their planning partner was wanting to be able to track and understand how the partner arrived at certain recommendations. This dialogue taught the planners to practice explaining their work and recommendations in layman’s terms residents could understand before asking the Steering Committee for feedback. The residents wanted to understand why certain recommendations were made so they could adequately assess if they aligned with their vision and goals, without undermining the work of the planning partner. We came to call this practice “SHOW YOUR WORK” using the same saying math teachers use when asking students to demonstrate how they arrived at an answer.

PRACTICE!

Pull up the agenda for your next neighborhood planning meeting a bit ahead of time. What might help residents make a decision? How can information be prepared so that it is easy to share and understand?

HUDDLE UP!

  • Think about past development proposals or ideas brought to your neighborhood. What was unclear or incomplete about the information that you needed to make a decision or suggestion?

  • What channels or resources do you have access to that can equip you and your neighbors to respond to new development proposals or activation ideas in your neighborhood?

  • What key points do you want to focus on in an upcoming meeting?

  • Think about the requests or ideas you have received from stakeholders in the last 6 months. What conversations or actions can you prioritize to respond to their requests or get feedback from them in a meaningful way?
  • Based on the role(s) you might play in neighborhood planning, what resources, staff or support might be required to address unexpected needs emerging in the neighborhood planning process?
  • Where there might be a lack of clarity, incomplete information, or misunderstanding that affects how stakeholders respond to each other, how might you help clarify and re-align folks’ perspectives?
  • What steps do you take to anticipate the needs of your clients and ensure they understand and can engage with information you prepare?

  • What do you need from other stakeholders to be prepared to efficiently and effectively respond to resident and emerging situations?

  • What information or resources can you contribute to stakeholders collective understanding and response to emerging information or ideas?

  • What needs can you anticipate might emerge from stakeholders in a resident-led planning process that you can support with your funding or programs?

  • What signals from residents confirm they have accepted a stakeholders’ response or feel satisfied with the outcome of a decision?

  • What does your preparation to respond to residents currently look like? What skills and tools, if any, might prepare you and your team to center resident voice in crafting responses to their needs?

  • What do you need to know about a neighborhood’s demographics, status, and vision or desires in order to respond in a way that centers resident voice?

  • What do stakeholders need to understand about your role and resources available to set realistic expectations for how you might respond to unexpected needs that arise from the planning process?

  • In what ways can you be intentional and proactive about connecting stakeholder concerns to your resulting actions or responses?

#16 RESPOND TO WHAT YOU HEAR

We integrate feedback in meaningful ways.

What we Learned

Being responsive and integrating feedback are key to creating access and building trust because it shows residents and stakeholders that what they contribute is valid and can create real change. When people see their ideas translated into actions, they are more likely to stay engaged and share their thoughts. It is important to have a plan that aligns with what residents want, while remaining flexible to address emergent needs and respond to changing conditions. The two most essential practices of this approach are:

Observation (Jump to Be Observant)

Inviting Dialogue (Jump to Invite Dialogue)

When facilitating dialogue you must be attentive to residents’ feelings and thoughts and respond appropriately whether it be managing time differently, adjusting the plan, or incorporating a new way of doing things.

weCollab Highlight

During a resident meeting, weCollab’s planning partner, YARD & Co, faced opposition to their outreach timeline. Residents expressed concerns about engaging during winter, prompting YARD to reevaluate and adjust the timeline to commence engagement in the spring, when the weather was more favorable. This direct response to resident input built trust and demonstrated the value placed on resident voices. Encouraging dialogue and implementing residents’ suggestions is a powerful way to show that their feedback matters.

Hear the Planning Partner elaborate on how they responded to resident feedback.

PRACTICE!

One way to gauge your responsiveness is to reflect on your recent actions and assess how they connect with residents’ suggestions or comments. Even when proposing new actions, make it a practice to acknowledge how residents’ feedback influenced the idea. This demonstrates that you value their input and are willing to bring relevant suggestions.

HUDDLE UP!

  • What can you learn from how resident input was shared and used or not used in previous neighborhood efforts?

  • How will you advocate for neighbors’ ideas and concerns to be incorporated in the planning process?

  • How can you consistently update neighbors on input opportunities, ideas gathered, and ideas included or eliminated in the process?

  • What current mechanisms of yours can be leveraged to share out what is heard in the planning process?
  • How will you help resident leaders ensure they consider all ideas and views voiced in the planning process?
  • How will you help connect stakeholders with non-planning concerns or needs voiced in the process to the appropriate responder?
  • How will you help resident leaders ensure they consider all ideas and views voiced in the planning process?

  • What practices can you incorporate to regularly reflect back to neighborhood stakeholders what they’ve shared in the process?

  • How can you create a transparent system of vetting and communicating influence of stakeholders’ ideas on planning actions?

  • How can your funding approach encourage process leaders to actively gather and respond to ideas from neighborhood stakeholders?

  • How can you tell that consultants and government representatives are intentional about the way resident input is used in a planning process?

  • What tools or practices can you leverage from previous efforts to bolster the feedback loop in this process?

  • What current mechanisms of yours can be leveraged to share out what is heard in the planning process?

  • What tools or practices can you leverage from previous efforts to bolster the feedback loop in this process?

  • How will you help connect stakeholders with non-planning concerns or needs voiced in the process to the appropriate responder?

#17  CONSISTENTLY EVALUATE

We pause frequently to see if we are getting the results we expect.

What we Learned

When embarking on a resident-led planning process, you may run into situations that are completely unexpected. Or in an unlikely instance, you may see that things are going exactly as you planned. Creating access will require residents and stakeholders to be nimble and flexible as situations and objectives change. By using tools and setting up processes to evaluate where you’ve been, you can identify what works and what doesn’t work, creating room to improve. Actions are strengthened by repetition. When creating a process, slightly tweaking it each time, you exponentially apply what you learn. This practice can be referred to as iteration and always involves evaluating an action you took. Introducing new participants to the process offers a natural point to evaluate how the process is going as they bring fresh perspectives and unique questions. Establishing a rhythm and a success framework or key performance indicators can allow you to track your progress.

weCollab Highlight

Throughout the weCollab process, we would pause to do a gut check on important topics. For example, when new Steering Committee members joined just before getting into a heavy period of group decision making, we called each Steering Committee member to see how they were feeling about the process overall. We asked if anything was unclear and their expectations for how they would be involved in the next phase. Another example was when the Steering Committee had to choose administrative support for the implementation phase of their plan. We asked Steering Committee members to complete a one-question survey to get a sense of how much of the group was in agreement before and after the discussion of the topic. This ongoing evaluation allowed us to understand how productive conversations had been on the group’s ability to collaborate and decide on different issues.

PRACTICE!

With any decision you make in the process, ask: Who is impacted by the decisions we are making? How are they impacted? Is this impact aligned with the current neighborhood’s desired outcomes and vision?

HUDDLE UP!

  • What does it look and feel like to know you have made progress in your planning process?

  • How do you know if your neighbors and other stakeholders are aware of progress in the planning process?

  • What milestones and benchmarks are important to you in completing your neighborhood plan?

  • Where do your indicators of success come from and how often are they evaluated? How much influence did residents have in these indicators?
  • In what ways can you tell if neighborhood planning process initiatives and activities are successful to the residents
  • What outcomes or key performance indicators can you measure to determine success throughout the planning process?
  • How often do you reflect on and evaluate the work being done for your clients? What forms of feedback do you receive and how do you know when activities are successful or not?

  • What are some common trends in feedback you receive from clients and stakeholders about your work in their neighborhoods? What signals might tell you it may be time to check-in with them?

  • Beyond your contract, what outcomes or metrics can you measure or add to determine how accurately and thoroughly you are supporting the residents’ vision?

  • How often do you collect feedback from your funding activities? What forms of feedback do you receive and how do you know when activities are successful or not?

  • What are some common trends you notice in reports or feedback you receive about your funding activities in resident-led planning? How do you know it may be time to check-in with your funded partners?

  • What outcomes or key performance indicators can you measure or add to determine how closely the resident’s vision for their neighborhood is being achieved?

  • How often do you reflect on and evaluate the work being done for neighborhoods you serve? What forms of feedback do you receive and how do you know when activities are successful or not?

  • What are some common trends in feedback you receive from clients and stakeholders about your work in their neighborhoods? What signals might tell you it may be time to check-in with them?

  • Beyond concrete outcomes of land use and zoning adjustments, what outcomes or metrics can you measure or add to determine how accurately and thoroughly you are supporting residents’ visions for their neighborhoods?

people | power | place | systems

Initiating a 20 Year Journey

Every St. Louis neighborhood is a chosen place to live, raise children, and grow old.

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