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Patrice Cunniff Linehan (user 350) - Comments by Date

The Handbook outlines the "What's Next Alexandria?" civic engagement process well, and captures the recommendations made during the public meetings (and online interaction)... Excellent work!

Descriptions of what a "community organizer" does, and the purpose of different communication methods adds clarity and promotes common understanding. Nice work!

Some general recommendations:
-I like the idea of a basic evaluation as suggested by AmyNThomas.
-Consider "chunking" the information into sections for the online version so the reader is not overwhelmed
-Existing leadership groups might need to adjust their current structure (e.g., inviting City staff to speak at monthly meetings) to better align with the new process and could benefit from some training (similar to City staff training that is being planned).

More detailed edits to consider:
p. 23 (2nd paragraph) - Consider breaking up the one long, wordy sentence
p. 26 - Mobile Workshop & ... (out of place? - Move to #2?)
p. 36 "benefits and constraints" repeated twice in paragraph 3

Other considerations:
-Flyers also helpful in places where people gather and have to wait (e.g. bus stops)
-Print distribution can use existing infrastructure (e.g. inter library, recreation center, City departments and/or school distribution systems)

Thank you for the opportunity to participate and comment. I'm committed to carrying this work forward and hope to see the results of this work implemented in upcoming City projects.

Patrice Cunniff Linehan (350) | User | October 11, 2013 - 3:22 PM | Civic Engagement Handbook Comment Board

Although I understand the frustration of the other two commenters – who are seeking more ACTION or IMPLEMENTATION of the civic engagement framework – the community conversations were critically important in making a culture shift that is captured in the Handbook:
“Engagement involves conversations, deliberation, and active feedback. It means creating new relationships with neighbors and actively listening to different points of view. … That kind of engagement is more effective than citizens communicating ideas one-by-one to City staff and considerably more effective than City staff working alone.” (p. 3)
Sometimes we give input individually, without realizing there are other citizens providing completely different solutions to the same problem. By understanding the various perspectives, we are better able to find win/win solutions.
Through my involvement in the process, I have been impressed by the work that City staff and citizens have done together. For me, What’s Next Alexandria? has especially demonstrated City
Responsiveness, Transparency and Inclusiveness
RESPONSIVENESS of City staff to community input. For example, during the first community dialogue, participants reacted negatively to having City staff facilitate the conversations at tables. There was overwhelming support for citizen-led dialogue, with less time dedicated to formal presentations by elected officials and expert consultants. AS A RESULT, City staff incorporated citizen feedback and sent a public request for volunteer facilitators from the community. They also reached out to groups (e.g., Parent Leadership Training Institute of Alexandria) to recruit volunteer facilitators who are bilingual or who could reach out to under-represented groups who were missing from the first dialogue. In addition to taking time to meet and train volunteer facilitators, the City staff and elected officials lowered their profile a bit, joining tables to listen more and allowing extra time for interaction among participants.
TRANSPARENCY was improved and modeled throughout the process. The description on page 6 of the Handbook gives an overview but the notes, pictures of participant notes during table activities, polls and opportunities to comment (such as this one), are all additional evidence of the efforts made to provide transparency to the public … and offer multiple ways to provide input in the process for people who could/could not join the meetings in person.
INCLUSIVENESS was a theme that came up throughout the series of dialogues. Reaching out to under-represented groups and involving everyone in meaningful ways is often a challenge. When we recognized that young people were missing from the conversations, special effort was made to recruit student leaders from Alexandria City Public Schools and other civic groups (Optimist club? I think). When a point was made that everyone doesn’t have access to email, posters were translated and I personally saw City staff putting them up in predominantly Spanish-speaking neighborhoods, etc. [Also see note about recruiting facilitators who can speak other languages in addition to English above in the responsiveness example].
Although there are some items that we’ll have to work together to clarify as we implement the civic engagement framework – e.g., How will we know when, “Trust in the citizen engagement process increases” or that “outreach occurs well before the project begins”? – the Community Dialogues and resulting Handbook are a good start.
SUSTAINED COLLABORATION will be up to all of us. I encourage everyone to read pages 12 and 13 and consider ways to support the next steps, especially as the process is tried out and refined through upcoming projects
-Public Art Master Plan
-Eisenhower West Transportation Study and Small Area Plan
-Stormwater Management Plan
-Bicycle Master Plan
I urge everyone who live and works in Alexandria residents to get involved in the projects that interest them. I’m looking forward to implementing the Handbook recommendations and seeing improvements in civic engagement and collective action.

Patrice Cunniff Linehan (350) | User | July 30, 2013 - 1:11 PM | Civic Engagement Handbook Comment Board