How can we organize, engage, and activate citizens, while reaching out to citizens?
Current Approach: The top-down approach to engage community works like this. A massive budget for a community event is created, bare minimum of advertising, self-aggrandizement of local officials, and a photo-op with most of the attendees directly aligned with the politicians. It’s a political spectacle. For “community listening” sessions, people are allowed to express their opinions; though the executive decision has been made in advance; once again, these sessions cost money and it’s a political spectacle. Political spectacles win elections…“Don’t hate the player, hate the game”; Note: annual festivals are fine as long as that is not the primary form of engagement
My Approach: Two years ago, when I ran for city council, I asked citizens if they felt they belonged in the community. A sense of belonging is not something that is given to you, it is something that you contribute to. The bottom-up approach or grassroots community engagement involves activating citizens and connecting them with each other to create activities, events, and building a community. These events are more intimate, affordable (members pooling resources), and centers around citizens. Door-to-door organizers can reach out to citizens to get them informed, activated, and engage in the community. Our administration will be pursuing asset based community development (ABCD), which draws upon the strengths of local residents and local institutions to build stronger, more sustainable communities. Here is a video highlighting how residents can lead and transform their communities. Check out this video on ABCD in-action
Authentic community engagement is having residents with differing views come together to discuss important matters in a respectful manner. This means having those difficult conversations AND residents becoming better communicators. There are several key points for community engagement:
- Partnership with District Planning Councils: share resources, improve communication, and accountability
- Community Forum: Digital Forum to have authentic conversations in the Ward: Join Here
- Expand Civic Engagement:
- We respect community members time i.e. monetarily/food/childcare and give them ownership/ decision-making prowess.
- Provide support services so people can attend and outreach to the population most directly impacted by an action.
- Digital tools so community members can participate at their own time (good for parents)
- Youth Engagement: Opportunities for them to self-organize, represent, and be a part of different communities that are relevant to them
- This is also a great learning opportunity => Students Lead & Adults facilitate
- Community Network: Residents are independently interacting, supporting, and working together via ‘asset based’ approach, which is an intentional process where community members provide their service, i.e. asset, to the corresponding community.
- Expansion of block club frameworks (community dinners, game nights, etc.)
- Local emergency support networks in cases of domestic violence
- Community Capacity/Resiliency: Knowledge & power is shared with the community rather than concentrated to single groups, making them less vulnerable to change via new leadership
- Art as a medium of Disruption & Inspiration: Creative means to reach out, educate, and entertain community members
- Spreading Joy and Smiles!