Strong Communities Are Founded on Civic Engagement
While from a professional perspective, there is increasing concurrence among planners as to the importance of mixed uses, green space, compact urban form, and the pedestrian scale, Morphy argues we still have a gap to close in getting the communities in which we work on board with these concepts. Crucial to closing this gap is engaging in effective community outreach.
Aside from the imperative that "community members should be co-authors of their future," Morphy adds that planners should be proactive in their communities because involvement "improves chances of a project or program succeeding," "leads to better community health," and "builds social capital." She follows with sugested strategies for crafting a sincere, open, and effective engagement process.
The fundamental component in growing healthier communities is to build relationships, writes Morphy. Planners should be proactive in arranging meetings, come prepared to listen, and follow up with "a sincere response focused on acknowledgement and validation." They also should be comfortable in ceding control to "put the community's future in the community's hands." Even more important, states Morphy, is to begin any successful community-engagement program by identifying the desired outcomes, and developing a plan to achieve them.
"We can stand to be a bit more creative about the way we engage our communities," remarks Morphy, "...But true community engagement takes time, takes relationship-building, and requires you to build trust with the community."