In its brief history, Public Engagement Associates has already shown its ability to harness citizen voices to help produce better and more effective decisions.
Examples of recent and current projects are:
Ward 7 Action Summit
Public Engagement Associates was asked by the newly elected Washington, DC Councilman in Ward 7, Vince Gray, to help him organize and conduct a day-long meeting with his constituents. The meeting was held on Saturday, December 3, 2016 at the KIPP DC Smilow Campus from 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM. The purpose of the meeting was to identify action priorities for Councilman Gray to help guide him during his time in office. In particular, Councilman Gray wanted input from the community on issues relating to housing, public safety, jobs, education, transportation and health care.
More than 250 residents and business owners in Ward 7 attended the meeting and there was a good cross section of people from various neighborhoods as well as key community organizations. Participants of all ages were part of the Action Summit including young people ages 16-25 who were particularly well represented. All of the participants spent the day learning about the issues, talking together in small groups, entering ideas into networked computers and voting with handheld key pads to determine what the action priorities for Ward 7 should be. Councilman Gray and his staff spent the entire meeting listening to the concerns and suggestions of those who attended and promised to act on what they heard. Immediately after the Ward 7 Action Summit, Councilman Gray took the data from the meeting and worked with his staff and others in the Ward to develop a comprehensive action plan. That plan was completed three weeks after the Action Summit and now serves as a guide for the work Councilman Gray is doing on the DC City Council.
NoMa Parks Foundation, Washington, DC.
When the new neighborhood NoMa (north of Massachusetts) was created, the master plan did not include any parks so several years later the city funded the NoMa Parks Foundation to determine how to best integrate parks into the neighborhood. Since June 2015, PEA has worked with the NoMa Parks Foundation NoMa to facilitate five, highly interactive, quarterly community meetings to provide general updates on NoMa Parks progress, educate residents on park possibilities and options, and receive community feedback on various plans for parks in the neighborhood. These quarterly meetings have been attended by nearly 400 people. Some of the main insights that emerged from these Community Conversations are:
- It is essential to have a balance of uses which meet the needs of people of all ages who live in NoMa
- The Foundation should make it a priority to purchase the few pieces of open land in the neighborhood that are still available
- The Metropolitan Branch Trail needs significant upgrades in order to adequately serve the hundreds of people who use the trail each day
- The needs of the dog owners need to be met through setting aside land for dog parks and create spaces that serve both people and dogs
- Common space in the middle of the neighborhood where the community can come together for festivals, film screenings, farmers’ markets, and other neighborhood celebrations is a priority
PEA has also worked with the NoMa Parks Foundation to design and implement an effective means of obtaining online feedback on specific park proposals.
District of Columbia Mayor’s Office for Asian Pacific Islander Affairs (MOAPIA)
PEA worked with the director of MOAPIA to convene a large-scale, all-day Action Forum with 200 residents and stakeholders from the AAPI community to develop key priorities for the office on education, community safety, health for vulnerable populations, housing affordability, job training, and small business. In the subsequent months, PEA worked with MOAPIA to develop a 3-year implementation plan to carry out the priorities from all six of these policy areas on behalf of the Asian-American, Pacific Islander community. Priorities included:
- Advocate for compliance regarding language access services at government-funded clinics and hospitals
- Advocate for better transportation access to health services for AAPI seniors
- Work with the police department to enhance community policing
- Increase language resources for families in public schools, especially for communication between teachers and English-language learner parents
- Provide more effective English language programs to enable more AAPI residents to enter into job training programs
- Help neighborhood retailers become effectively engaged with communities in ways that bolster their businesses
Bainum Family Foundation, Park Heights Baltimore
PEA worked with the Bainum Family Foundation to conduct a large-scale Family Forum for parents and other stakeholders in the Park Heights neighborhood in west Baltimore to help determine what types of services are most needed to support young children and families of young children, including child care, health care, after school activities, summer programs, and so on.
PEA also facilitated follow-up focus groups with parents to probe further on the priorities that emerged from the forum then published a report to help guide the strategy the foundation decides to commit to.
PEA partnered with the Howard County Executive’s office and the Department of Planning and Zoning to design and facilitate a series of four “rECovery” meetings held October through December, in the aftermath of a July 30 storm that flooded Ellicott City’s historic Main Street and West End. These forums brought the community together to learn about recovery efforts of nearby jurisdictions (e.g., Frederick, Annapolis) that faced similar challenges and provided a forum to share ideas to help Ellicott City rebuild stronger and more resilient.
The first forum focused on the residents and business owners that had been hardest hit by the flood to help them gear up for the long-term recovery efforts. Subsequent sessions focused specifically on rebuilding and the environment, rebuilding and economic development, and rebuilding and historic preservation. Overall, several hundred residents and stakeholders participated in the process.
PEA also worked with Howard County to enable the community and key stakeholder groups (engineers, designers, preservationists, the business community, etc.) to propose “project Ideas” for how to rebuild Ellicott City as a model, resilient city. The ideas were organized and categorized as either part of a long-term process or as a potential short-term, ready-to-go strategy. A county-appointed Community Advisory Group published a report in January 2017 that summarized the recommendations for these projects.
In the spring of 2017, Howard County will be hiring an urban design/engineering firm to consult on the development of a long-term Master Plan and Master Watershed Plan for Historic Ellicott City. This plan should be completed by early 2018. Read more here.