A few highlights below...
by Susan Hopkins
The team at Highland Planning hosted an early morning training session called "Essentials of Public Engagement" with members of RocCity Coalition. We shared some of our favorite tools and techniques. Thanks to the members of RocCity Coalition for a lively discussion.
A few highlights below...
By Christopher Dunne
“Gamification” is an ugly word but it's also one of our favorite techniques for making complex information and tough choices more fun and engaging for members of the public. We talked about using a "Guess Who" game board to teach participants about tradeoffs in the world of transit back in February. More recently in Auburn, we handed out March Madness-style brackets to help launch a discussion about what criteria should be used to select an alternate water source for Cayuga County as part of the Regional Master Plan for their water system.
These tools are light-hearted but that never detracts from the conversations they create. The discussion this exercise generated in Cayuga County was productive, informative and maybe even as engaging as your conversation by the water cooler about the Ramblers blowing up your bracket.
A March Madness-style bracket with match-ups between different criteria used to assess an alternate water source for Cayuga County.
Committee members fill out their brackets before an in-depth discussion.
by Susan Hopkins
The Highland team held an in-house training this morning (in the conference loft) to review and refresh some of the foundations of our work, including promises and values we bring to the table as practitioners of public engagement. Sue shared some key takeaways from the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2) training last fall.
It's great to refresh our knowledge and share important lessons we've learned practicing in the real world. There's a lot of knowledge in this loft.
We also provide training for public agencies, developers, and neighborhood organizations. Topics include the basics of engagement, designing a solid engagement process, and using innovative techniques.
If you would like to organize a training for your organization, contact us to learn more!
by Tanya Zwahlen
We stepped away from the office today for some team building and strategic planning. And playtime. Playtime that included burpees.
by Christopher Dunne
It’s been a whirlwind two months since I started as a Senior Planner with Highland Planning and only a little longer since I’ve been able to call Rochester my home. I’ve already had the opportunity to help our region’s public transit system Reimagine itself, build a MetroQuest survey to gather input for one of the City’s riverfront park projects and, of course, furiously scribble down notes on a butcher pad at meetings in Buffalo and Cayuga County.
All of this has been new but also familiar. My background is in state government in Massachusetts. After college, I worked in three state senate offices where I did everything from answering the phone to drafting legislation and budget amendments on healthcare, education and transportation. Serving constituents and working on political campaigns taught me the value of listening and the importance of breaking down technical jargon into words that everyone can understand. While working at the State House, I earned my Masters’ in Public Administration from UMass Boston where I authored blog posts about autonomous vehicles, a study of escalator passenger behavior in the area’s subway system and a review of the state’s lobbying laws among other projects. After getting my MPA, I made the move from Boston to Rochester this past September.
Part of what excites me about working for Highland Planning has been the opportunity to get quick crash courses on the communities that we partner with throughout New York. Having worked for the people of cities like Springfield and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, I’m no stranger to the post-industrial challenges that Rochester, Buffalo and other cities in our region face. Seeing firsthand the dynamism and creativity that people in these communities use to address these challenges though has been moving and it’s great to have a role to play in that transformation.
I’ve also loved the opportunity to think more about my personal passion for urban cycling and walking. As Monroe County looks at updating a decades-old transit system and Buffalo and surrounding communities explore transit-oriented development, I’ve had the chance to think more about the obstacles and opportunities communities encounter when trying to increase bike- and walkability. There is a wonderful intersection of engineering, politics and social psychology in these questions.
I sometimes half-jokingly sum up my career as “democracy cog.” The machinery of our system relies on human beings involved in law-making, campaigning and translating what the public wants into action, and I’ve been fortunate enough to work in roles in all of those areas. In my past positions, I listened to the concerns of communities and helped make policy. I’m now thrilled to be working for a firm that amplifies the voices of those who are affected by policy decisions like the ones I used to help make.
If you want to talk politics or policy, tell me about an opportunity to engage the community or just pass on your favorite vegan recipes, shoot me an email.