Neighbourhood Champions Network
In an effort to improve outreach during the community planning process, the West End Neighbourhood Champions Network (NCN) was formed to:
- Provide advice on matters of public involvement
- Assist with outreach to encourage wide participation in the public engagement process
Active from March 2012 to November 2013, NCN was critical to achieving broad, inclusive, and innovative engagement in the community. Thank you to the 60-plus members of the NCN.
About the network
The NCN is based on the principles that:
- Everyone is entitled to have a voice
- Processes and outcomes are more effective when a diversity of participants are able to contribute.
The model recognizes that communications channels have changed a lot in recent years, especially the way people engage with each other, with businesses, and with government. The general public is no longer as dependent on representatives to access information and to share their ideas.
The role of NCN members was to participate in and encourage others to participate in engagement channels that are open to all. Members did not have special status in regards to influencing final policy or designs, however they helped shape the engagement process itself.
What the City expected from members
Members worked with their existing connections with their neighbours and peers in the West End to encourage and facilitate participation in the West End Community Plan's public consultation process.
Their connections were formal (like those through a Parent Advisory Committee or Business Improvement Association) and casual (with a book club, sports group, or neighbours in an apartment building).
To be a member, participants had to live or work in the area of focus, and were asked to provide information that would help the City understand their demographic representation. The City's goal was to build a diverse and representative network.
How members participated
- Recommended engagement tactics that were likely to be effective in their neighbourhood or among certain groups of people
- Offered outreach avenues (such as newsletters and contact lists) and the potential for partnering on events or meeting spaces
- Helped with translation, graphic design or creative art, videography, and facilitation, to enrich the engagement process
- Contributed ideas for popular places and ideal dates to hold events and allowed the City to partner with existing events
- Encouraged people to participate in engagement opportunities (such as filling out an online survey, attending a public workshop, or giving someone a ride to an event)
- Took part in engagement and public consultation events
- Identified and filled gaps in community representation
- Participated in focus groups that tested engagement tactics before they went to the rest of the community
Membership was open to anyone and the commitment was flexible. We wanted to ensure that members were participating in meaningful feedback opportunities that were available for all public members and not being overwhelmed with volunteer expectations that hinder that. Communications were online and in person at key milestone points during the planning process.
What the City offered network members
The City provided:
- Clear information to share with others to support informed discussions
- Engagement tactics that were accessible and interesting to the public they helped reach out to
- Summaries of public input and useful tracking of results to identify gaps in public representation
- An online discussion platform and member list
- Open membership that was fairly vetted
- Automatic acceptance of people with a direct connection to the neighbourhood because they lived or worked there
- Provisional acceptance of people without a direct connection that provided a rationale for their membership
- Organized meet-and-greet meetings