Public Engagement during COVID 2021

Energize and Innovate Your Input Process in the Time of COVID-19 and Beyond. 

Public engagement meetings are designed to share information and gather input from the community of future projects. What does the community want in a park or plaza? What are their concerns and why? Giving the community opportunities to provide input is a key element in successful open space design.

Public Meeting Formats

So how do you generate public engagement? Four formats can be utilized to garner community input. These include Public Open Houses, Online Presentations, Online Surveys, and Multi-faceted options.

Open Houses are an excellent option during COVID-19, as it allows residents to attend across a span of time, rather than being in the room all at once. This is great for voting and mingling in a larger room or outside setting. Open houses also have the option to be held via Zoom, allowing people to attend at any time within the live hours.

Online Meetings are another useful format during COVID and beyond.  This allows a wider audience to attend that may not normally be able. With so many new formats for virtual meetings, you can pick which one offers benefits most suitable to your needs. Options include Google Meets, Microsoft Teams, Free Conference Call, and the most popular platform, Zoom.

Presentations should utilize visual graphics that are shared so everyone gets the same information. Input is garnered through voting and dialogue options, as well as questions and answers that are open for everyone to hear. After presentations, people have the opportunity to stay for one-on-one conversations in breakout “rooms”.

If one format doesn’t suit all your needs, Multi-faceted input plans can spread the community engagement effort across many platforms. This could include a mix of an initial presentations with an open house, focus group breakouts, voting and online surveys, and online meetings.

Getting People to Your Meetings 

Getting the word out about your meetings is crucial to increasing attendance. Social media is a great way to get the word out to targeted communities with a call to action. Another virtual option is email blasts, which target those who would be more likely to attend.

Mail invites via fliers in the community can be sent specifically to those in the project’s surrounding area.

However, you choose to reach the public informing them of these meetings, it’s vital to make the time and place work for your community.

COVID-19 Tools 

There is a wide variety of tools at your fingertips to generate successful community engagement.

The first is Google Forms for online surveys. This form offers a variety of question types including multiple-choice, open-ended, yes or no, and true or false. Photos can be added to enhance the user experience as well.

If you’re presenting an Open House or virtual meeting, Poll Everywhere offers Smart Device usage or Live Virtual polls. This tool gives you real-time answers with transparency to share with the audience, opening up another source of dialog. Question types available come in a variety such as multiple-choice, open-ended, yes or no, true or false, or choosing options.

Lastly, Zoom has become a vital COVID tool for the business world. Webinar Zoom is perfect for larger groups, while Regular Zoom is ideal for smaller groups. With both, you can use PowerPoint to share presentations. Live online voting tools are available to generate statistics to go with the meeting’s dialogue. Zoom’s features such as a Chat and Muting non-speakers give presenters easy control over the event.

Three Rules for Public Input 

The three golden rules of public input can help keep you on track for a good meeting.

  1. Never show them anything you don’t like.
  2. All opinions count.
  3. Be prepared.

More Ideas to Engage 

Remember to keep updating the community along the planning process and build momentum for the project. As we come out of COVID in the coming months, give residents updates with pop up information at concerts or community events, give out prizes for survey participation, put up project boards up at the Community Center, or take your playground options to the after-school programs, skate parks ideas to middle schools, and generally find ways to take the ideas out to the people.

There is a plethora of tools available to communities in COVID times that provide you with a variety of ways to engage the public. Diligence and consistency are key with virtual platforms, building the momentum, creating interactive engagement, and following up with the community to keep engagement going. Utilizing the tools available for virtual engagement mixed with these tactics will give you better results and more community engagement.

COVID Public Engagement 2021 - Boards
COVID Public Engagement 2021 - Outdoor Setting