Pillar 1: Think

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When you are ready to develop a housing plan or seek community input on a housing project, take time to do some initial planning to ensure that you will be successful.

Step 1: Self-Assessment

The Self-Assessment Template will help you contemplate the various components, resources and constraints that come into play when planning a public engagement process. It is important to get clarity on things such as the time horizon, level of public input desired, staffing, budget and others.

Step 2: Consider Public Engagement Approach 

Given the resources and constraints identified in Step 1, use the Consider Public Engagement Approach Template to think through how to construct a public engagement approach that will lead to your ideal outcome. Consider both in-person and digital efforts. Ensure that the goals for your public engagement effort are clear. 

Step 3: Contemplate Community Landscape

It is likely that your agency has a list of community groups and local opinion leaders that you regularly communicate with regarding projects and/or initiatives. There is also the likelihood that there are groups that you do not regularly communicate with due to the lack of involvement among historically underserved communities. The Community Landscape Template will help you document the full community landscape, potentially including a wider variety of stakeholder groups than you may have included in the past. After the template is filled out, connect with several community groups to fill in any gaps or check your assumptions. Developing and/or deepening your relationship with community-based organizations is necessary to ensure a successful housing plan, and may have benefits in other policy arenas. Multiple perspectives allow for a more comprehensive assessment, broader housing related project identification, and the opportunity to build community understanding and buy-in to carry out the plan.

Best Practices for Establishing a Common Understanding

Meet communities where they are and honor what they value

Begin with what connects people: use existing and previously identified social networks such as business groups, a faith community, and environmental or economic advocates to explain how housing projects and planning efforts relates to what they value. For example, a community may be more interested in the development of green jobs than greenhouse gas reduction. The housing planning process can integrate and prioritize activities that support the development of jobs, such as a green energy workforce to install solar panels or conduct energy efficiency upgrades.

Adapt community meeting plans to suit the varying audiences and partners in the work

Use more formal planning methods with public sector participants and less formal approaches with general residents.

Identify “what we love and what we want to protect”

Housing planning can be fraught with disagreement, so starting with a genial, optimistic approach to identifying people’s common values is useful. 

Consider language barriers and language access

It is important to consider options to reach and engage residents with limited English-proficiency. The US Census Bureau can provide data about English proficiency in your community (https://factfinder.census.gov). Before a public meeting or workshops, consider translating flyers, handouts and other materials and engaging with ethnic media outlets and community-based organizations to promote engagement opportunities. At public meetings/workshops you can consider providing simultaneous or consecutive translation services and/or hosting small group discussions (or full workshops) in languages other than English. 

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