Inclusive Community Engagement Checklist

In the midst of the social and economic turmoil of the past year, planners and developers are reevaluating how they work and what they create. Many are thinking deliberately about equitable development and how current residents should play a central role in shaping the projects and programming that will impact communities. Cultivating an inclusive community engagement strategy is a crucial step in building projects that will improve our neighborhoods. Is your community engagement strategy inclusive? Although this is far from an exhaustive list, here are a few considerations to help you get started.

1. Have we provided a safe place to share feedback?

Public meetings and forums often become echo chambers for the loudest voices in the room. Those with different opinions and ideas often don’t feel welcome to speak up. Allowing community members to share feedback outside of speaking up at in-person meetings will help ensure that all feel invited to participate.

2. Do we know the neighborhood?

Nearly 22% of U.S. residents speak a language other than English at home. What languages are spoken in the community in which you’re working? Ensure all project-related information and meetings are available in those languages. Does the area see a lot of foot traffic? Consider posting SMS text messaging signs inviting pedestrians to text in their feedback. Cater your strategy to the neighborhood and you’ll see better results.

3. Have we reached out to neighborhood groups and community leaders?

Reaching out to community groups can help to build trust. Established groups and leaders already know where and how to reach pockets of the community. Collaborating with existing organizations is an important component of inclusive outreach.

4. Have we made it easy to participate?

Most people can’t (or don’t want to) sit through a community meeting - even if it’s virtual. Provide community members with multiple ways to participate that aren’t limited to a single moment in time. Online engagement works for many, but other options are needed for those without internet access.

5. Have we tried to reach community members where they are?

If you know where your audience spends their time, you can reach them more easily. Once you’ve created a platform to collect community comments, share it wherever they’ll find it: post on social media, share it with neighborhood groups, and include the information on mailers and flyers.

6. Have we provided multiple ways for community members to participate in the conversation?

While online participation is easiest for some, mailers and flyers will be necessary to reach others. The digital divide is real, but by providing multiple ways to share feedback (including via SMS and voicemail) you’ll be sure to gather more representative feedback.

Successful, inclusive engagement means that all voices are heard. This requires meeting people where they’re at - which includes communicating with them in their native language.

When working in diverse communities, a thoughtful strategy is essential for gathering more representative feedback and ultimately building a better project.

When you work with coUrbanize, you'll gather representative community feedback and spend less than 15 minutes a week on the platform. If you’d like to learn more about how our community engagement experts can help you execute an inclusive digital engagement strategy, request a demo.