Blog – Reaching Out to Our Communities Online

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Here we are, in an ever-changing situation. As we strive to stay healthy during this crisis, we have come to value our outdoor community spaces and our connection with nature even more. Moving forward, it is more important than ever to continue to preserve, inspire and create these special resources.

Some of the things Gates + Associates has always believed about community engagement remain in this new season – It has to be easy and relevant, because our biggest commodity is time. Busy people are not likely to take time out of their day if it does not feel important to them.

With more people than ever moving online to connect with their communities, we think this is the perfect time to connect virtually and envision our future outdoor spaces, to gather when the time is right.

There are 4 main categories of online tools:

Surveys & Polls

Pair imagery with text whenever possible, as it helps to express your point and clarify what you mean when explaining concepts and options. Utilized in the Milpitas Parks and Recreation Master Plan Online Survey, it’s also very beneficial when working in multiple languages. When selecting your online platforms, visuals are a top priority for clear graphic communication.

As in all our outreach pieces, our logo and branding is consistent. It helps to people recognize the project and follow along as the project evolves.

Discussion Boards

Screen shot of the My Menlo Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan Facebook Page. Members could share, like and participate when prompted as well as start their own discussion, comment on existing threads and share resources in the group.

Some public agencies have “Town Hall” platforms directly on their websites, where they can to post topics for community discussion.

Interactive Maps

Used for the Daly City Parks and Open Space Master Plan, this interactive map allowed us to collect park-specific insights as well as citywide insights for the programs. A more visual and dynamic way to collect resident input, this tool allowed people to explore the area and provide comments on a variety of sites throughout the project area.

Live-Streamed Meetings

Useful for sharing project information & responding directly to community comments & questions in real time, and can be recorded for later viewing & posting of all community input.

Platform examples include: Zoom, GoToMeeting, Twitch, Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and Youtube.

To continue the conversation and continue in the spirit of collaboration, we also invite you to join our Facebook Group, where we are hoping to provide a place to ask questions and share our experiences, “lessons learned,” and additional resources so that we can rapidly evolve our best practices to create an inclusive, effective and community-building online experience as we move our projects forward. 

Article written by Kelley Lotosky | Published on April 2, 2020