Amanda Nagl takes a deep dive into how Kansas City, Missouri creates a diverse and inclusive engagement program designed to build from one phase to another based on community input submitted through the site’s interactive engagement tools.
Kansas City, Missouri, illustrates an incredible team approach for their KC Playbook, or comprehensive community planning site. Part of Kansas City’s online engagement Playbook success came from the team’s initial planning, including the internal designation of roles based on experience. By continuing to modify and try new things, they have proved agile and competent throughout the evolution of the site, as well as throughout the ever-changing landscape provided by COVID-19. This internal process of open communication and shared goals resulted in a diverse, inclusive, and continuous engagement program for KC community members to keep coming back to the site. By including the Who’s Listening feature, residents are able to identify the real people behind the conversations. Although not pictured on the site, KCMO Planner Bobby Evans handled much of the initial setup; including project build, imagery, and graphics, as well as a GIS team that continues to think outside the box.
Places: GIS skills have really amplified the ease and effectiveness with which community members are able to engage with the tool. Within their Places tool description, KCMO includes an animated video removing any barriers of confusion while improving the level and quality of participation. Additionally, they customized the boundary around the city to light rather than a more typical shading, drawing attention to the question and creating interest to work within the boundary itself. While these are minor alterations to the tool, the difference is significant and proven to work–this is recorded as one of the busiest Places tools across all USA EngagementHQ sites over several weeks’ time.
Forums: The KCMO team has utilized the Forum’s tool in an inspired capacity. Starting with a positive topic “The thing I love most about Kansas City,” residents can discuss short and long term visions regarding the future of their City. By sourcing several diverse perspectives displayed using video, they anticipate more residents will be encouraged to either share their agreement or discuss a differing perspective. The team will continue to gather additional rounds of local perspectives through community partnerships, however, the ultimate goal is for community members to organically chime in and add to the diversity of perspectives shared.
Survey: As an initial means for outreach and inclusion, the KC Playbook launched with an open-ended Survey, posing Five Big Questions the public can answer in any way they choose. It is a true “blue-sky” or no-limitations imposed approach to find out what the community is thinking and feeling. This large amount of text-based data will then be mined for common themes using a tagging mechanism built into EngagementHQ to efficiently organize and analyze. Those common themes will assist in the creation of additional prioritization as the plan unfolds. The timeline contained on the homepage is a great resource to examine exactly how these phases will look and the timeline of their occurrence.
Keeping it Fresh: By launching a new Poll and Activity each week, KCMO’s planning team gathers important feedback that builds on each phase of the planning process, as well as, drives returning traffic and participation to their site. Utilizing feedback received in the aforementioned Places tool and Big 5 Survey, the team can take a deeper dive into common ideas and opinions previously submitted. Each EngagementHQ tool offers its own advantage for the type of feedback that best supports each week’s question. For example, the Ideas tool allows residents to openly add their own examples and even show support or vote for each other’s suggestions by clicking the heart that is embedded in the tool.
Keeping it Focused: Diversity and inclusion of as many unique voices as possible is a cornerstone of this plan and this department’s commitment to equality. As a result, they are using the demographic data to determine not only who they hear from but more importantly, who is missing. Resources are then delegated to recruit these missing voices. Efforts such as posting the URL and site information on bus routes in the quiet zip codes are being undertaken now, as are targeted social media ads. While the team would love to do more boots on the ground and live events to attract these voices, current COVID-19 circumstances don’t yet allow. As restrictions loosen in the coming months or year, the team plans to find opportunities for smaller gatherings in targeted areas for further discussions.
Interested to hear more about KCMO’s engagement journey and strategies? Watch now!