Utilities and local governments are re-evaluating their engagement practices as a result of COVID19. As communities re-open, the ability to meet in person will return slowly, but many community members will feel uncomfortable with group meetings for some time. With the requirement to stay apart and wear masks, many community members may even prefer to engage in a virtual setting. After providing input from their home, residents and ratepayers may not want to go back to waiting in line at night for a few minutes at the microphone. One silver lining to the pandemic is the ability to re-imagine public engagement strategies for the future. Raftelis can help you meet the next level of expectation for easier engagement, move critical projects forward using a virtual engagement, and resolve important issues for your local government or utility while attracting a broader audience.
Host virtual meetings – Raftelis can do everything from setting up virtual meetings, acting as host, serving as the facilitator for a board, elected body, board or commission, or staff group, and providing a recording of the meeting. For public agencies with a small staff or staff that are maxed out, this service can add some temporary relief from trying to learn a new virtual platform and ensuring public meeting rules are followed.
Online meeting facilitation – Facilitation of group meetings of all sizes is something Raftelis does regularly in-person and online. Online facilitation mirrors the in-person experience. It creates two-way communication opportunities, seeks feedback from stakeholders, and provides a synthesized summary. Raftelis can help you get to decisions in a way that includes engagement and identifies clear actions.
Visual facilitation – One challenge with virtual engagement is the experience lacks some of the takeaways that in-person engagement has. Screen captures of Zoom meetings are not a good substitute for photos and video of in-person meetings. Raftelis can provide an engaging, visual recording of the discussion to go along with notes from the meeting. A real-time visual facilitator develops images that convey the conversation during the online meeting. This can help everyone grasp the main points of the conversation and provides visuals for future communication with those that could not participate.
Adopting new public engagement policies – The pandemic has changed many communities’ engagement expectations and old processes will need to adapt to be more inclusive. This will mean policy reviews, changes in code and procedures to allow multiple types of communication. Raftelis’ policy experts can assist with an analysis and update.
Keeping key initiatives on track – Many initiatives were put on hold while utilities and local governments waited until things were “back to the next normal.” Raftelis can get these initiatives back on track by providing ways to engage constituents on difficult topics that will need to be addressed like levels of service delivery, utility rates, budgets and capital plans. These engagement strategies can help you prepare and engage the community for difficult choices that may need to be made in coming budget cycles.
Business recovery – The pandemic has crippled many businesses, but without engaging with different business sectors it is not clear how or what your government or utility can do to help. Raftelis can provide online engagement that helps business owners work collaboratively toward solutions.