When work began on the Thrive MSP 2040 plan in 2012, the Council invited members of the community, community organizations, academics, and local government officials to share their vision for the Twin Cities region over the next 30 years.
As equity began to emerge as a key outcome for the Thrive MSP 2040 plan, a related theme traveled with it: to achieve equitable outcomes and foster equity in this region, the Council must ensure the full range of voices participate in regional decision-making. The Council must change its approach to community engagement.
Council, partners create plan for public engagement
In response, the Council began an extensive process with community partners to create a new Public Engagement Plan (18 pages, pdf) for all Council-related efforts to ensure a deliberate, inclusive approach to engaging the community and local stakeholders. The draft plan emphasizes engaging people affected by a project early in the process, and providing meaningful opportunities to influence the decisions made in a planning process.
The plan also highlights that people are experts in their own day-to-day experiences and should be able to provide that expertise to shape decisions and resulting policies.
“Planning is about people,” said Council Chair Susan Haigh. “Our planning processes need to be grounded in the needs of people, and responsive to the vision they have for our region. To achieve shared outcomes, we need to engage differently and provide greater opportunities to bring more voices to the table.”
Engagement requires transparency, cultural competence, and other key values
With guidance from Council members, a collaboration of community organizations (affiliated with the former Corridors of Opportunity project’s Community Engagement Steering Committee) and Council staff created the plan over several months, highlighting lessons learned from past regional projects and experiences of the Corridors of Opportunity project.
The plan also calls for flexibility in outreach efforts to assure different constituencies can participate.
“Engagement is about meeting people where they are, building relationships, building trust, and sharing problem-solving,” said Haigh. “With this plan, we’re committing to building long-term relationships to strengthen our planning processes and foster greater success in our region.”
Key pieces of the plan include principles for engagement, ways to promote inclusion, specific Council processes, and guidance for local communities in doing their own engagement. It also includes resources for planning, including a checklist for assessing how a project will affect communities to begin crafting and assessing appropriate engagement strategies.
The final policy will be adopted in early 2015.
The Council encourages all feedback on the plan through the end of the year.