This year, WRT celebrates 50 years of planning, designing and transforming communities. That means 50 years of implementing visions, 50 years of serving clients, and nearly 1,000 projects in as many communities. It also means 50 years of community engagement, and thousands of community meetings. WRT’s founders invented the values driven, iterative community engagement process—an industry standard today used by most planners and designers.
A lot has changed in 50 years. Today, community engagement has taken on a digital/mobile form. Yet, it has made the physical meeting more important, not less. Today, we have many engagement tools available besides trace paper and markers over a map. Yet, a well-drawn sketch is still the most powerful communication tool.
Today’s demographics are also more diverse compared to yesterday’s cadre of concerned citizens. Today’s meetings are attended by tech-savvy youths, working mothers, always connected professionals, recent immigrants, and a growing contingent of concerned baby boomers. Yet, most planners and designers still use the same meeting format.
At WRT, we help clients and citizens think of community engagement as something more than the simple community meeting—that successful community engagement processes must (1) have a plan; (2) think beyond the confines of the meeting and more along the lines of a partnership; (3) adroitly mediate between opposing interests; (4) double as capacity building exercises; and (5) be customizable.