While the practice of public involvement has been studied and honed for decades, new questions are being asked about whether we are really doing it right. And, a recently completed city planning effort might point the way toward how how we can do it differently.
In September, Governing.com published an article that questioned whether public involvement as it is currently constructed favors people who have time and resources to participate in planning processes. Those people with means, the article claims, have an outsized ability to delay and thwart projects they don’t like – adding costs and, in some cases, sidetracking projects that might benefit lower socioeconomic communities or minority communities.
It certainly is worth considering whether and how the public meeting “regulars” – and most cities, counties and states have them – end up with an outsized level of influence on the outcome of various engagement efforts. In an “equal” process, everyone has access and influence.
However, some governments are asking whether equal is good enough. Perhaps it’s time to re-think when and how we conduct public involvement. In at least one city – and there are probably others – the new goal is equity through a process of continuous engagement that de-links the engagement process from individual projects.
The Ohio Department of Transportation has long been a national leader in producing high-quality, informative customer-focused videos. Among its many programs is the award-winning weekly program, The Loop, featuring ODOT communications pros Erin McBride and Matt Bruning, which has garnered more than 64,000 YouTube views. The content is high quality, consistent and – I think I mentioned this – informative.
But ODOT’s communications team has discovered that TikTok provides a way to reach an entirely new and different audience with its video content that is far beyond the standard YouTube channel.
Thanks to intern AJ Overstreet, who was familiar with the TikTok platform, ODOT discovered that it could repurpose video it was already producing and, in turn, grow the engagement with their content.