City Develops Improved Community Consultation Framework
October 19, 2011
Surrey – In order to facilitate greater citizen feedback and input, the City has developed a new community consultation framework, which will be used as a basis for communications between the City, community groups, residents and businesses.
“Our goal at the City of Surrey is to continually improve accountability, transparency and open dialogue,” says Mayor Dianne Watts. “We are building a city from the ground up and we want our residents and businesses to help us shape growth and create vibrant communities. In order to achieve this goal, we need to engage the public in a relevant, inclusive and productive way.”
The Community Consultation Project (CCP) was initiated in early 2010 to refine and formalize the City’s engagement processes with residents, which is becoming increasingly important as the population of Surrey continues to grow. The project involved 38 community associations from across the city, who were asked to establish guiding principles and create standard protocols for community consultation. Based on the discussions and collective work of the group, a Consultation Principles Document was developed and then refined with broader consultation.
“As a City we need to look at new ways to improve communication and bring the public into the decision-making process to help ensure more residents are consulted in a meaningful and effective way,” says Councillor Barinder Rasode, who led the CPP. “A strong community is achieved through partnerships and the new principles will pave the way for enhanced, ongoing communication.”
The CPP is one component of the City of Surrey’s commitment to improving communication with residents to reinforce accountability and transparency. A number of new initiatives are underway, including:
- The City’s website was redesigned in 2010 to improve access to information. Council meetings are now broadcast online, the search function for council reports has been dramatically improved and the website now includes significant youth-focused content.
- The City’s COSMOS Geographic Information System (GIS) online application provides a myriad of property-based information for properties across the entire City. Information such as zoning, development applications, the City’s green infrastructure network, school catchment areas, parks, etc. is available through this system.
- The City is using video communication techniques to communicate with citizens.
- The Engineering Department, in association with SFU, created a 10-week Transportation Lecture Program to successfully promote two-way dialogue between City staff and citizens.
- Based on feedback from the CCP, the Engineering Department has recently established a Neighbourhood Enhancement Fund for improvement and beautification. This program has been launched with a $500,000 budget for this year and residents can apply through the City’s website or at capital project public open houses.
New Consultation Principles:
The City of Surrey is committed to public engagement that is open, relevant, proactive, equitable, partnership-based, ethical, responsive, accessible, available, and balanced through education and communications, and guided by the following principles:
1. Two-Way Communication:
Communication between the City and Community Groups should be timely, all inclusive, responsive, transparent, collaborative, and provide opportunities for the engagement of the Community Groups and the Community at large at all phases via many communication modes.
2. Respectful Partnership:
The City and Community Groups will work to build and maintain relationships that reflect constructive, respectful, meaningful, inclusive and compassionate partnerships aimed at achieving outcomes built upon all voices. The City and Community Groups acknowledge that outcomes and priorities may change and that mechanisms for ongoing dialogue shall be in place.
3. Inclusive Public Process:
The City should ensure that public process is accessible to all members of the community via many communication modes, will encourage the equal involvement of Community Groups who wish to be heard, and will acknowledge the inherent value of all participant views.
The City and Community Groups will work to acknowledge and understand the diverse needs and priorities that exist within the communities, and as partners shall commit to balancing these with the interests of the wider community.
5. Responsive Dispute Resolution:
The City and Community Groups acknowledge the value of dispute resolution and shall commit to jointly resolve disagreements as they arise to ensure that consultation proceeds in a balanced, timely and productive manner.
The City of Surrey supports the open flow of timely information amongst government, the Community Groups and the community-at-large based on the following principles:
1. Early Involvement:
The City should ensure that various input options are in place to enable Community Group involvement at all stages of City policy development, including inception, issue identification, concept development, design and implementation.
The City should ensure for adequate notification of initiatives and projects at all stages, and should be committed to provide substantive opportunities for public input and feedback to facilitate meaningful discourse that ensures a partner-based decision-making process.
The City should establish proper checks and balances on all initiatives and projects through timely, measureable, reasonable, achievable, and realistic feedback and reporting-out mechanisms. The City shall ensure the Community Groups have access to decision-makers as part of the feedback mechanism.
4. Knowledge and Education:
The City should undertake timely educational initiatives to ensure that all parties have the required information at all stages to enable an informed discussion, and the Community Groups need to be receptive and responsive to these initiatives.
5. Information Updates:
The City is committed to facilitate ongoing dialogue with Community Groups that represents effective, timely and two-way communication. The Community Groups will ensure the City is apprised of any contact changes and/or additions to community associations to ensure all groups are engaged and included in the City’s communications
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Senior Communications Specialist
Office of the Mayor