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Community Engagement Is Not A Field of Dreams

If you try to build it, they will come – and they will tell you why it’s a crappy idea.

The success of your project depends largely on how well you are able to engage your community. Community/stakeholder input can help you shape your project vision, ensure you are responding to local needs, and help you to build support for your development ideas. Ideally, your community should be involved from a very early stage; this will help you to form lasting relationships with community members, and ensure your development will be an addition to the neighborhood that everyone can be proud of.

With all stakeholders, your objectives are to build credibility and trust, develop supporters and champions for your project, and make sure that the needs and wishes of your stakeholders are taken into account in decision-making. Community engagement is part of a larger stakeholder engagement strategy that begins at the outset of a project and continues well after the bricks and mortar are in place. My approach to community and public participation is to ensure that the process is ongoing and cyclical.

Conducting a strategic community engagement process allows you to form relationships with community stakeholders and to leverage existing community assets and resources for your project. At the same time, it allows you to identify potential threats, such as individuals or organizations that may have concerns about your project or other external issues that may hinder the success of your project. It is particularly important to engage local community stakeholders in the “visioning” process to ensure that your project’s vision is understood, shared and supported in the community. Community involvement in the building design process is also important – if feasible – especially if the project will have a significant physical impact in the community, either in its size or architectural form, or in increased traffic, noise, etc.