Gordley Group recently used the Social Pinpoint interactive mapping tool as part of their public outreach strategy for the Yuma Metropolitan Planning Organization (YMPO) Regional Transportation Plan. Jess caught up with Vanessa, the Public Involvement Coordinator for the project, to discuss how Gordley Group uses online methods to improve public engagement participation rates and outcomes for their clients.
Summary of the project
The public outreach was undertaken on behalf of the YMPO, to engage with the community regarding their Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). The RTP investigates the transportation needs (including car, airplane, train and bicycle) likely to arise over the next 23 years in the Yuma region of Arizona, USA. Public comment was sought on the draft list of potential transportation improvement projects in the Yuma County.
The Importance of Engaging the Community
In order to meet the Federal Highway Administration requirements for funding, public engagement on the plan was mandatory. Notwithstanding, Gordley Group has found that public input is essential for obtaining public support of these types of projects.
Our experience has shown that the more the public is involved in the process, the more likely they are to accept the outcome.
Based on past experiences on other planning projects, Gordley Group knew that it is really hard to get people to come to public meetings. The results don’t justify the expense, so they were looking for something different.
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The Online Solution
An online engagement tool was incorporated into the outreach strategy for the project because in the past traditional public meetings have not been well attended by the community. The lack of attendance is based on many factors, including the location being too far away and inaccessible or time-poor people are unable to make the time commitment. As such, it made sense to use an online tool that was accessible to anyone, anywhere and at anytime.
The success of the project relied on engaging a wide and diverse audience and it needed to be done in a cost efficient way. Social Pinpoint was chosen because it is very cost efficient, it is easy to use, and it is customizable, which means that it could be used for a variety of different projects for different clients.
"Social Pinpoint has worked with us on making customizable projects for each client. The Gordley Group found Social Pinpoint to be very effective because it is easy to use, which makes it easy for people to participate and provide feedback on a project. Online methods such as Social Pinpoint experience a lot more engagement from the community than traditional methods."
Online + Offline Engagement
A survey was used for the first round of citizen outreach for the project, however a minimal response rate was achieved. "The client wanted more participation responses and so further engagement was undertaken" explains Vanessa.
It was decided that the Social Pinpoint interactive mapping tool would be utilized. The second round of engagement experienced a high response rate and the client was extremely happy with the results. In addition to online engagement, an advertisement was placed in the local newspaper, an email was sent to stakeholders, a press release was made, and a flyer drop was undertaken to advise the community of the project. Throughout the project, the public could access the Social Pinpoint map from the YMPO offices if they needed assistance. All of these methods were used to promote the Social Pinpoint tool and to reach people in different ways so they could participate.
The Social Pinpoint site has received over 750 hits and over 130 comments since August 2016, the project is still ongoing and will be completed in 2017. The combination of people adding their own comments with people liking/disliking other's comments resulted in a lot of different interactions with the public and a lot of different trends, which the client appreciated. The interactive map far exceeded the anticipated level of engagement.
Part of our job is to make engagement public-friendly. The Social Pinpoint map worked well because it was so easy to use.
Gordley Group's use of Social Pinpoint on this project was a first for the Yuma area. Following the success of this initial use, it has been used for other clients and there are plans to use it for several more. Vanessa told Social Pinpoint that "The fact that it is customizable means that it can be used in different ways to meet the needs of our clients – and it is very cost effective. We look forward to using it more and more in the future."
Vanessa was very pleased with the results obtained by using Social Pinpoint and expressed that "the great thing about Social Pinpoint is that they are really responsive. When help was needed urgently for a client, we were taken care of"
Vanessa Noonkester is the Public Involvement Coordinator at Gordley Group. She is involved in all aspects of the public involvement process, from public meetings to managing stakeholder questions and concerns.
Social Pinpoint love to feature practical examples of how our online engagement tools have been used to successfully engage with the community. Let us know if you would like your project to be featured! Email: email@example.com