The central focus of NCI's work is helping our clients create community-driven and economically viable comprehensive development plans and frameworks. And...
"Community-driven" begins with community engagement.
Community engagement can mean many things, but we believe that it is a fundamental and indispensable part of any planning process, the bedrock. Often, community engagement is treated as secondary to the "real planning" effort the planners proceed on a planning concept and then inform andget feedback from the community. At NCI our planning subconsultants do not draft any design until after we've heard from the residents and other stakeholders.
See "Moving Forward Together", "Another Big Idea," p. 7 >>
See "Ideas at Work" link, slides 2 and 3 >>
At NCI, community engagement typically begins with a workshop with local residents in a format that allows and encourages creative thinking within the context of economic and physical reality. These workshops are democratic and transparent and set the stage for the rest of the process. NCI considers community residents the experts on their neighborhood, collectively holding hundreds of years of experience living and working in their community, knowing what works, what doesn't. And, when they work together with a professional planning team, it is really "experts talking with experts." See "Ideas," slide 6 >>
By carefully structuring the initial meeting with the residents at the beginning of the process, community members can engage in an informed, expanded and asset-based discussion about the potential of their community and present their own ideas, needs and wishes. This early engagement yields a highly individualized, representative view of the neighborhood, one that can be innovative as well as viable, and championed by the residents themselves. Far from being perceived as just "wishful thinking," NCI sees this self-awareness as having DIRECT, POSITIVE IMPLICATIONS ON THE PLAN FOR THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT. These ideas will inform every following step of the planning process, and the priorities they outline remain the priorities of the process.
See "Ideas," slide 6 >> and See "Moving Forward," page 10 >>
How This Is Done: An Example
At the initial public meeting with the residents, NCI and its professional team make a presentation that details the organizational structure, schedule and ground rules for the planning process. This is a key part of establishing and maintaining an open, civil process. The presentation may include a professional assessment ("the snapshot") of the area, as well as current planning and land use trends, as a means to inform -- and inspire confidence in -- the residents to think creatively and energetically about their own community and its potential.
An edited version of the PowerPoint presentation delivered to the Revere School Community at its "kick-off" meeting for residents can be viewed here. The Revere School Neighborhood is on the South Side of Chicago; NCI has been engaged in a redevelopment planning process funded by the Comer Science and Education Foundation on behalf of a Leadership Team consisting of the Foundation as well as the City of Chicago and the Alderman. (We have worked extensively with the Foundation's affiliate, Revere Community Housing Development, LLC.) Please see "Moving Forward Together," the booklet that resulted from that meeting.