Case Study: Expanding Diverse Participation through Hybrid Public Engagement
The Harrisonburg Rockingham Metropolitan Planning Organization (HRMPO) 2045 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) will showcase a model for collaborative, regional decision making about transportation needs, and lay the groundwork for future long range planning updates. But while the LRTP will have an impact on the entire region, past iterations of the plan have largely only included input from transportation enthusiasts and passionate special interest groups.
HRMPO brought in Avid Core to expand participation, raise awareness of HRMPO and its role, and to help ensure the LRTP is rooted in the community’s wants and needs.
Avid Core’s data-driven approach started with a high-level assessment that included interviews and surveys of staff and community leaders. It highlighted several areas for improvement, including:
- There is little knowledge of HRMPO and its role in the region, but there is much interest in learning and getting involved.
- Transportation is often seen as a secondary concern and the LRTP feels abstract and disconnected from day-to-day life.
- Participation rates are higher when invited to participate by trusted sources.
These findings provided an understanding of the existing landscape and HRMPO’s relationship and reputation with the public. The feedback drove the creation of a public engagement plan for Phase One of the LRTP process, which focused on what the community feels are the current needs for transportation and their vision for future regional transportation.
Avid Core’s plan outlined a set of measurable goals, identified key stakeholder groups and messages for each, and detailed our communications and outreach tactics. These tactics included social media (paid and organic) posts, an animated explainer video, emails, media outreach, a webinar, briefings to elected officials, and the creation of a partner toolkit that was shared with community partners identified during the assessment. These digital tactics promoting the online survey were supplemented with physical copies of the survey distributed to 14 locations around to region to reach residents without internet access, including the region’s prominent Old Order Mennonite community.
Phase One set new records for HRMPO’s public outreach. A total of 638 residents responded to the survey, including 40 respondents who filled out the paper survey. Nearly 30 new community partners helped promote the effort. Briefings were held with elected officials in all five localities within HRMPO’s jurisdiction and the webinar received 100 percent satisfaction with attendees who responded to the post-event survey.
Following the close of Phase One, Avid Core held a lessons learned session with HRMPO to identify successes, challenges, and stakeholder groups that may need more focused attention during the rest of the LRTP process. This information will guide public outreach efforts during Phase Two, which will kick off during Summer 2022.