My vision for meaningful engagement includes the involvement of all community members, specifically bridging gaps to ensure the inclusion of equity-seeking or equity-deserving groups in the public participation and consultation process. The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the inequities in access, including technology, knowledge and resources. I believe meaningful engagement will be able to identify equity-deserving groups in order to direct resources to those groups, level the participation playing field and ensure a better-rounded project that is reflective of community demographics. The pandemic has also brought to light the importance and move towards digital engagement. Meaningful engagement will therefore be able to bridge the access, age and digital divide as we move to a more online-focused consultation environment.
I am fairly new to IAP2 and the engagement space and therefore come in with a fresh perspective. When I first started working, I was employed with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority for 4.5 years where I engaged the local business community in sustainability and environmental programming. I gained important facilitation skills through this role and really understood that discussion and participation could enhance program and project results. Next, I went back to school for a Masters of Urban Planning. Here, I began to understand the importance of community discussion and input in city building and that, truthfully, it seems to be lacking, rushed or an afterthought for many urban development practitioners. While I joined this program to find a career in development planning, I came to realize that I was once again drawn to engagement, communications and more participation-based approaches to community building. That led me to work at a consulting firm as a Communications and Engagement Manager and my current position at the City of Toronto as a Senior Coordinator in Public Consultation. While I recognize I have many facilitation and engagement techniques to learn and employ, I have seen how consultation efforts can strengthen final project proposals and are necessary to build community and project consensus. I am hoping to learn more about and passionate about helping others learn about best practices in community development, engagement, facilitation, communication and consultation efforts.
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