Communication from the Town about events, information sessions or meetings usually takes the form of a notice on the Town website or social media and, an advertisement in the Midland Mirror. Some notices are dry and full of legalese, others are more interesting and informative. What is clear talking to residents at their doorsteps is that we are failing to reach a broad audience on many of the issues that impact the town and its residents.
At the August Council meeting, R. Fee, Communications and Marketing Coordinator, submitted report CL-2018-32, proposing a Community Engagement Strategy. Mr. Fee recommended that “Council endorse the principles contained in the Community Engagement Strategy which supports one key pillar of Council’s Strategic Planning Priorities; Develop Partnerships, Promoting Collaboration & Alignment.”
Council authorized the Administration to acquire a Community Engagement Tool as part of the 2019 Capital Budget, and that Administration be requested to continue to roll out the application of this policy when addressing community based projects and initiatives.
Two opportunities stood out for me. The first, ‘Mondays with Council’ is a 30- minute call-in show on Rogers TV with the members of Council, on one Monday every month. It allows elected representatives to engage in one-on-one conversation and discuss what will be going on in the month-ahead.
Second is Coffee time with Council where Council encourages residents to stop by and meet informally with the Mayor and Councillors. This will occur on a quarterly basis. A rotation schedule of the Council Members over the course of the year will ensure that all Council Members have a chance to participate. It will be wide-open to the public to attend and take part in; provide face time with Council to discuss concerns, stories, or issues.
Another welcome aspect of the Community Engagement Strategy is a new and improved website with a design based on services rather than corporate structure. It will be much more readily searchable and provide self-service options (e.g. Parking tickets, property taxes, dog tags).
I fully support the principles below taken from Mr. Fee’s Community Engagement Strategy:
“Engaging the community is reflected in the Town’s Vision Statement which proposed to establish an “inclusive” community. In order for this to have a positive effect, it is essential that there be consistency in the application of the engagement plan. To that end, we have identified seven principles to be adopted as part of our community engagement plan, using MIDLAND as an acronym to help instill these principles further.
Meaningful – ensure that all community engagements activities/events are meaningful and purposeful and demonstrate that the Town and Council have regard for current and future-well-being of participants.
Inclusive – Community means everyone – The Town will ensure that we are an inclusive community by inviting a broad range of participants from all backgrounds, abilities and socio-economic circumstances.
Diverse – In order to generate the maximum effect of our community engagement, we will offer a diverse number of initiatives/actions for participants to communicate with us.
Lead the way – To maximize participation in our community engagement efforts, we need to lead the way by opening up the channels of communication and show our willingness to engage and be transparent.
Accessible – We will provide access to all forms of communication tools, but also ensure that our website and communication is accessible to all of the community from the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) perspective.
Network – Community Engagement doesn’t end after an event. To strengthen the effectiveness of our efforts, we will need to continuously maintain the lines of communications and network with participants and stakeholders to ensure we are building these relationships.
Deliver – The success of our engagement efforts hinges on our ability to deliver timely communications. If we are going to open up the communication lines to the community for them to take part in decision-making events, then we must deliver decisions and strategies with sufficient timeframes to allow for meaningful discussions and events. “
I am committed to the development of a communication strategy that provides the framework for engaging with the citizens, property owners and businesses within the Town of Midland to help meet their expectations, while also helping them to feel a sense of ownership about decisions being made on their behalf.
A timeline for implementation of specific initiatives can be found at item 11 (d) in the link below.