Cory Segin is helping the Edmonton Insight Community win friends and influence City decisions.
“We’re proud of the success of this new approach, which enables Edmontonians to provide input to their City at a time that is convenient to them, using devices they prefer, and about issues that are important to them,” says Cory, Manager of the Office of Public Engagement. “Most importantly, the Insight Community is improving how people can be involved in their City, along with the many other improvements we are looking at as part of the Council Initiative on Public Engagement. We’ve heard loud and clear from people that the City can do better in engaging them, and we’re responding.”
Over the first year of the Insight Community, the City’s Office of Public Engagement sent 35 surveys to Community members to gather input on a range of issues, which has helped to influence decisions on everything from development notices and use of herbicide to bike lanes and pedestrian plazas.
For the Community’s monthly Mixed-Topic Survey in May, the Sustainable Development department’s CITYlab worked with the public engagement team to ask Insight Community members whether or not they would like to see the alley on the north side of 82 Avenue, between 104 Street and 105 Street, transformed into a pedestrian plaza. An overwhelming majority of respondents said “yes”. These results became part of Administration’s recommendation to City Council, and the Whyte Avenue alley was subsequently closed to traffic. CITYlab then temporarily painted the alley and installed planters with flowers. Future public consultation will help decide the best design and long-term use.
In another example of Insight Community influence, in December 2014, members were asked to help revise mandatory notices that are mailed to residents about local development plans. Respondents adjusted an example interactive notice by dragging and dropping various parts of it around until the notice made the most sense to them, and provided comments for improvements.
“The comments have provided us direction for moving forward with changes in the format and content of the notices, and further opportunities to explore how the notices can be shared with the community,” says Lana Phillips, senior planner with Sustainable Development. “It was interesting to see how the City’s approach aligned (or didn’t) with the understanding shared by the people in the Insight Community.”
Members of the Edmonton Insight Community can quickly and easily complete surveys on topics that interest them on their phone, tablet or computer. There is a monthly Mixed-Topic Survey that takes on average of 15 minutes to complete, and often opportunities to complete other surveys if desired. The Community also offers member discussion forums.
“We turned on a discussion forum feature for the first time in May to allow members to discuss the revitalization of the Stanley A. Milner Library with each other,” says Mark Boulter, the City’s Market Research Advisor responsible for managing the Insight Community. “The response was fantastic! We will certainly do this again.”
And the Insight Community is growing. Now at 3,200 and counting, the goal for 2015 is to increase the membership to 5,000.