Our team led the engagement program for the second phase of the Central Okanagan Planning Study (COPS) in close collaboration with the project team. The study is exploring ways of reducing congestion and improving safety along Highway 97, the Central Okanagan’s main transportation artery. The high-profile project impacts many communities in the region, and has been highly contentious in nature.
Allow people to self-select the level of detail they want: Our team focused on ensuring complex technical information was translated into accessible and easy-to-digest information. We provided information in varying levels of detail to ensure that people could find both summary-level and in-depth information easily. This allowed people to self-select the level of detail they wanted at any point in the project and prevented information overwhelm.
Create space for divergent views: Because of the contentious nature of the project for the communities, we created an engagement program that allowed all views and concerns to be voiced and tracked respectfully. We created and implemented what we have termed a ‘two-hats approach.’ We held two workshops – one for each possible solution – and asked participants to wear the same ‘hat’ for each. At one workshop, everyone looked at options for one of the proposed solutions; at the next, focus was set to the other potential solution. The aim of this approach was to help individuals put aside their personal views and achieve a unified focus at each workshop. The approach was successful and led to valuable input, and community buy-in into the engagement process.
Share results: We ensured transparency of the engagement process by producing robust summaries at the conclusion of each round of engagement. Our team took reporting from start to finish by collecting, collating, coding, analyzing and reporting on hundreds of pieces of public feedback. Reports were made public, ensuring everyone was kept abreast of results and could clearly see the impact their feedback was having on the project.
Through the second phase of the project, we hosted and facilitated 10 engagement and meeting events that engaged with over 1,500 people including residents, business owners, elected officials, and staff in the potentially impacted communities. Our efforts have helped create shared understanding between the project team and stakeholders, ensured community concerns were heard and addressed, and facilitated a meaningful conversation about the project that will continue as the project enters its next phases.