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An Engagement Discovery Amid the Pandemic Pivot

Community engagement should be meaningful. Community engagement should also be fun!

SRF’s Community Engagement Team strives to ensure outreach and engagement strategies are meaningful and fun. However, designing engagement in a way that is both enjoyable and valuable can be difficult to accomplish. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented additional obstacles for reaching audiences through meaningful engagement.  Despite these challenges, we found that public participation actually improved as a result of expanding our virtual engagement toolbox. Over the past year, videos have played an important role in our pivot to virtual engagement and have provided enjoyable and valuable engagement opportunities during the pandemic.

Videos can help engagement practitioners and organizations:

Grab attention and reach audiences

Educate audiences in fun and convenient ways

Build awareness and participation during projects

Use storytelling to connect the public with technical information

Use graphics and visualizations to provide relatable content

Provide an accessible medium to share information

An Integral Part of a Successful Process

Recently, SRF helped Stearns County organize a robust community engagement effort on the County’s updated Solid Waste Management Plan. All engagement for the project was conducted virtually, including a community survey, focus group meetings, phone surveys, and a series of videos that were used to promote the project, inform the public, and provide an update on “What We Heard” during the process.

Working closely with SRF’s in-house animators and Multimedia Team, the team developed a series of short, animated videos designed to serve the dual purpose of educating residents about ways to help the County reduce, reuse, and recycle and encourage community members to participate in the online survey. 

An introductory video was created at the outset of the engagement process and was heavily promoted through social media. The video introduced the public to Stearns County’s solid waste services and facilities, highlighted the process to update the Solid Waste Management Plan, and promoted opportunities for public to stay involved and share their input.

The overview video was designed so that short video clips could be pulled from the video to highlight key aspects of the system and promote the planning process. These short clips helped to drive a social media campaign for the project and bolstered community survey responses.  

“What happens to your

“What is a Solid Waste Management Plan?”

“Help ensure proper waste management”

A final video was created at the end of the engagement process to summarize the public input received and thank County residents. This 90-second video highlighted the key themes from the survey and how the input will inform the update to the Stearns County Solid Waste Management Plan. 

Visit the Stearns County website to learn more about the Solid Waste Management Plan.

SRF is a leader in delivering community engagement to a wide variety of audiences. Our team approaches engagement with an equity lens for all outreach strategies, ensuring opportunities to provide feedback exist for all community members, regardless of age, ethnicity, race, income, or mobility. Our in-house community engagement team has worked closely with communities across the Midwest to develop effective public engagement approaches that reach community members where they live, work, and play.

Meet the Community Engagement Team

Stephanie Falkers, AICP

Jonathan Cowgill

Daniel McNiel