A Guidebook to Community Engagement: Involving Urban and Low-Income Populations

September 30, 2014
by Pardeep Toor, Jason Cox, Mark Wyckoff

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The Planning & Zoning Center at MSU, a part of LPI, in partnership with the Flint River Watershed Coalition, developed a new community engagement guidebook. Mark Wyckoff, MSU professor, LPI Senior Associate Director and PZC Director led the project and is a co-author, along with PZC Team members Pardeep Toor and Jason Cox.

After participating in community engagement efforts in the City of Flint for the past two years, the PZC has published A Guidebook to Community Engagement: Involving Urban and Low-Income Populations in an Environmental Planning Process.

The PZC received U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funding for this Great Lakes Restoration Initiative project to improve the effectiveness of efforts to restore, remediate or prevent future negative impacts to Great Lakes water quality through partnership projects initiated by local governments and watershed-based conservation organizations in the Flint River and Shiawassee Watersheds.

The Guidebook explores some of the challenges associated with creating a relationship and building trust in two predominantly low-income minority neighborhoods around water quality issues in Flint, MI. The neighborhoods surround Flint Park Lake and Thread Lake.

The PZC research team hosted multiple engagement and visioning events with the aim of improving planning and improvement efforts around their water assets. The strategies deployed to recruit and engage community members in both neighborhoods are documented in this publication along with a step-by-step guide on how future researchers and policy makers can employ the same strategies in similar neighborhoods.

This guidebook includes a collection of strategies that were employed in the two Flint communities and the corresponding principles that resulted, which may be applicable to communities with similar demographics and water quality issues.