How to communicate with communities

Communication with communities needs to centre around building long-term relationships, not just as planners but as people, bringing humanity to a setting that can typically feel transactional. Building trust is the first step towards fostering these relationships - trust that requires planners to avoid planning jargon, be transparent and accountable, and acknowledge past engagement fatigue and marginalization of certain equity-deserving groups in the city. It is critical to plan and design engagement and communication strategies that respond to the barriers to participation by communities that have been historically marginalized or harder-to-reach. Starting any engagement process with clear communication around what is on and off the table for that project, staying engaged with communities beyond engagement cycles and events, and ensuring that clear feedback loops are created for transparency throughout the process are integral first steps in cultivating these long-term relationships; remember to be humans first and planners second.

Lessons Learned

  1. Engage with communities as humans; avoid planning speak
  2. Ensure that materials are accessible to the varied languages and literacy levels that can exist within a community
  3. Pass along any feedback collected during engagement to the appropriate divisions at the City, even if it is beyond the scope of the project at hand
  4. Tell communities how their feedback is being used, and if it isn’t, why not
  5. Acknowledge the history of marginalization and engagement fatigue among communities before approaching them for engagement
  6. Cultivate long-term relationships with communities


Related Case Study


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