11. Create community outreach resources, engagement resources, and training programs for place-based organizations supporting the management and activation of the public realm.

WHYCommunity engagement in the City is often carried out as a “top-down” exercise, whereby city agencies engage with groups of stakeholders and the general public on an ad-hoc, project-by-project basis. As such, the success of community engagement efforts is often inconsistent, leaving local stakeholders fatigued by disparate engagement in events and activities held by different City agencies.

Stakeholders also shared that the ad-hoc engagement efforts are often rapidly rolled out without careful understanding of, and consideration for, the breadth of stakeholders in any one community. This may result in disproportionate representation at engagement meetings and events, which in time creates community disenchantment with the City. To address this challenge, the City should leverage existing relationships and networks that CBOs already have to better reach and engage a broader cross section of local residents and stakeholders.

“We want this public space to succeed. We bring the community together in this space: a vigil, action, show. We don’t have [the] resources and capacity to do it. We need the city to help make it happen, and we can make sure community shows up for it. Organizing is our strong suit.”
Friends of Diversity Plaza

︎ A User Experience
︎ B Long-Term Coordination
︎ C Inclusive Design
︎ D Collaboration and Communication
︎ E Support commerce and entrepreneurship

︎ Process / Regulatory Framework
︎ Funding
︎ Technical Assist

HOW TO IMPLEMENT To empower local partners to lead community engagement processes that may be required during the planning, design and implementation of public realm improvements, the City would need to adopt a “bottom-up approach” that provides a suite of resources— financial and technical assistance—to CBOs.


This may include:

︎ Engagement micro-grants to be used toward funding additional outreach or engagement activities and events (beyond the CBO’s regular engagement calendar), including volunteer staff time and hard costs (like print materials, digital engagement tools—website, social media, text messaging service).

︎ A “how-to guide” for leading community outreach and engagement events that meet any typical requirements set by federal and state agencies.

︎ Ready-to-use multilingual outreach and engagement materials for print or digital use that may be customized by each community, as needed.

︎ Multilingual training sessions on how to track stakeholder outreach, facilitate community meetings, conduct one-on-one interviews, record meetings, and report back to City agencies, etc.

Case Study ︎︎︎  Case Study ︎︎︎  Case Study ︎︎︎  

We Will Chicago

City of Chicago, IL

As part of the City of Chicago’s multi-year citywide planning initiative to encourage neighborhood growth, the Department of Planning and Development is partnering with CBOs to lead engagement efforts throughout the process. To provide groups with the right resources that help the City gather community input in a coordinated manner, the “Meeting-In-A-Box” engagement toolkit was created. This suite of multilingual materials, which includes customizable brochures, presentation decks, activity worksheets, facilitator forms, and more, was made publicly available. Training sessions for community-based organizations were also held remotely/virtually in various languages and recorded, so that a wide range of audiences would be able to participate.

Click here to see example: Meeting-in-a-Box

The Public Realm Working Group (see previous recommendation) should, as part of its early phases, lead the creation of dedicated community outreach and engagement resources with the support of the Mayor’s Civic Engagement Commission and/or Public Engagement Unit.

City agencies such as the DOT, the DSNY, and SBS would directly benefit from the support of well-trained and well-resourced community-based partners who can conduct on-the-ground outreach and engagement more effectively. These partners are familiar faces to local residents and businesses. They often have long-standing, trusted relationships with key stakeholders in the community that can help reduce contentiousness and misperceptions of any public realm programs and planning or design efforts. Most importantly, community-based partners can help reframe any local issues into relevant questions for City agencies, and share relevant communications from City agencies with their communities in accessible language.

Cover of Meeting-In-A-Box Facilitator Guide. An African-American Woman stands off to the right side with a bright color treatment overlaid on the photograph.
︎ We Will Chicago