How do you find out what’s happening at Coquitlam city hall?
That’s one of the questions that corporate communications is delving into as the municipality drafts a community engagement strategy.
Currently, city residents get information out about policies, projects and plans through various print and electronic platforms.
And the city also calls for public feedback through surveys, the online research panel Viewpoint, letstalkcoquitlam.ca and other means.
But the pandemic changed the way that residents interact with local government, creating more pressure to improve consultation and include more diverse views, Nikki Caulfield, general manager of corporate services, wrote in her report to the city’s council-in-committee.
Kathleen Vincent, Coquitlam’s communications manager, told the committee that her division plans to develop a “made in Coquitlam solution” that’s scheduled to come before council for consideration later this year or in early 2022.
It will follow the civic engagement model set by the International Association for Public Participation — to “inform, consult, involve, collaborate and empower” — as well as take in comments from stakeholders and targeted audiences.
Specifically, the strategy will look at the current outreach model; clarify when, how and who to engage with; refine how to collect data; and see what other resources could be used to get more residents involved in civic decision-making.
“I love that you’re looking for more resources so that we can collect more data so that we can be able to really be able to engage the community,” Coun. Trish Mandewo said at the April 26 committee meeting.
Earlier this year, as Southwest Housing Review survey results were presented, councillors pushed city staff to get more young people involved in local government planning, especially on the housing affordability front.
And last month, after a public hearing on a City Centre high-rise bid, some councillors criticized the public for not tuning in about what’s happening in their neighbourhoods.
In her report, Caulfield cited Coquitlam’s growing appetite for residents to be in the know:
- in 2020, there were more than 14,400 total visits via letstalkcoquitlam.ca (to comment on various projects underway)
- the 2019 Citizen Satisfaction Survey by Ipsos indicated Coquitlam residents wanted more chances to participate in surveys, online feedback forms and in small groups
As for the 2021 Ipsos survey that ended last month — which included an online version, for the first time in the city’s history — an Ipsos official will be before council this fall to discuss the results, Vincent said.
The strategy work is being done as city hall is also conducting a review of the corporate communications division, which is part of the city’s 2021 Business Plan.