There is a new research document available online that transportation planners and communicators should consider adding to their reading list. The report, “Potential Use of Social Media in the NEPA Process,” attempts to fill in the knowledge gap between how most transportation agencies utilize social media tools and how the tools might be used in an environmental planning and public involvement process defined under the National Environmental Policy Act.
The report takes on the laborious effort of defining social media in a practical way, so as to establish a context for the overall discussion. It goes on to analyze the current state of practice by transit agencies, planning organizations and transportation departments at the local, regional and state levels. The document also includes case studies and — perhaps most of helpful — a guidance resource for project managers, environmental task leads and public involvement staff working on an environmental permitting and planning project.
The “Suggested Practices Guidance Resources” includes a checklist of considerations and helpful tips for how to develop and executive a social media program in support of a public involvement process.
Additionally, the report’s authors created an interactive tools matrix that helps practitioners identify the right tool for a specific purpose. For instance, if you are interested in crowdsourcing, the site walks the user through a variety of potential tools that can help gather crowdsourced data and input.
While the state of practice related to social media and public involvement will no doubt continue to evolve, this report should provide a framework for those concerned about moving too far or too fast along the path of implementing social media tools in formal processes.