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14 Ways to Enhance Public Engagement Practices & Policies


Summary of Initial Recommendations

April 2019




Community engagement can be daunting. An effective process can feel elusive. Below are 14 recommendations for how governments can enhance community engagement processes.


When community engagement efforts are minimal, perfunctory, superficial or ineffective, they can lead to negative outcomes for cities and communities. For instance, a process that misses the full diversity of people and perspectives in our community leaves out important voices. Or a poorly-designed community meeting can be unnecessarily divisive, homogenous, and unproductive. A continual pattern of bad engagement can lead constituents to be angry, disillusioned, or disengaged, either with each other or with decision-makers. When that occurs, long-term trust in government erodes.


Conversely, when community engagement efforts are significant, strategic, solicitous, and substantive, they can lead to very positive outcomes for cities and communities. For example, hearing from a greater diversity of viewpoints and people means a more inclusive process. Uncovering community priorities, ideas, concerns, and benefits can mean they are more easily addressed or incorporated into design changes. Stakeholders heard on one project may be more willing to engage in future efforts on the next.


When stakeholders are part of a robust engagement process, there is a huge opportunity for current and future development to positively impact a community. The 14 recommendations outlined in Cultivating Community can yield a more inclusive, collaborative and productive community engagement effort.




To ensure these recommendations provide effective, implementable solutions, Catalyze SV is seeking responses to them from city representatives and community organizations throughout the spring of 2019. The final draft of the Cultivating Community report will be released in 2020, including tools, references, and resources to ease the adoption and implementation of these recommendations. We want these recommendations to be as useful as possible, so if you have feedback, we want to hear from you! Contact us at





1. Information about development should be readily available and understandable.

Project information should be easy to locate and simple to understand, by any reader of any background.


2. Community should be engaged on development throughout various stages of review.

Engagement opportunities should be recurrent, though they need not be constant or all-consuming.


3. Noticing of public meetings should include a wide radius of stakeholders.

Stakeholders in a community often extend beyond a radius of 200 or 500 feet from a site.  


4. Communications should utilize social media and other digital platforms.

Digital platforms have emerged as a crucial means of communication for many stakeholders.


5. Communications should be in a community’s preferred languages.

Messages and content should be translated into multiple languages.


6. Existing community groups should be proactively reached out to and engaged.

Community groups of all different types can be an effective means of reaching stakeholders.


7. The intended use for community input should be conveyed - providing a transparent feedback loop for how input is gathered, documented, reviewed, and ultimately informs the final project.

How feedback is captured, considered, and utilized should be communicated throughout a project.


8. Community meetings should be well facilitated.

Facilitators running a meeting should be trained and skillful in facilitation.


9. Community meetings should have an engaging format.

Meeting format can help encourage dialogue, enabling attendees to feel comfortable speaking and sharing.


10. Public meetings should utilize real-time technology, with live broadcasting as well as an ability for stakeholders to engage remotely.

Online interactive tools can enable engagement from remote locations, allowing stakeholders to provide real-time feedback though they may be unable to attend a meeting in-person.


11. Public meetings should include a basic meal for participants.

Since 5 pm to 9 pm is prime dinner time, timing of weeknight community meetings can be a barrier for participation when no substantial food is provided.


12. Public meetings should include childcare services.

For families, a common barrier to participation can be ensuring safe supervision of children.


13. If parking validation is provided, stakeholders using public transit should be similarly reimbursed.

Use of public transit should be weighed and acknowledged in the same way as independent vehicle parking.


14. Costs to implement inclusive, collaborative public engagement processes can be partially or completely covered by the applicant as a part of the application process.

Limited application fees could cover direct costs such as venues, food, childcare, and facilitation by trained municipality staff or third-party providers.

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