Applicant Outreach Toolkit
Considerations for Applicant Outreach During COVID
After careful review of risks, needs and best practices, The City believes that stakeholder engagement on ongoing City projects and decisions can and should continue where appropriate; however, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting physical distancing measures have changed how The City connects and conducts engagement with stakeholders.
The City has created this information sheet to help our project teams navigate engagement on projects during this time. We encourage applicants to review this document, as it could be helpful as you navigate engagement on your own projects.
As an applicant, you are the lead for outreach on your application. As the lead, you determine if/when community outreach will take place for your project and, if so, decide about what, with whom, where, how, etc.
The City’s general recommended minimum approach is for applicants to complete our Outreach Assessment tool – which helps applicants assess and consider the potential impact of their proposal within the context of the community they are working in and provides guidance on high-level outreach considerations. In addition, The City recommends connecting with the surrounding neighbours, relevant community associations or member-based organizations and area Councillors early in the process to discuss development ideas.
Administration does not sign off on or approve any outreach plans or techniques proposed by applicants, however, we are available to discuss ideas and provide any additional insight that we feel many be beneficial for you to consider–based on our knowledge of similar application types and/or knowledge of the community–to help inform your outreach strategy.
Applicants are encouraged to take a look at the Applicant Outreach Toolkit as the general principles for outreach still hold true. Now more than ever, the importance of being a good neighbour and reaching out to key stakeholders as early as possible to discuss ideas, issues and concerns to help inform decisions about your outreach approach is critical. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Calgarians face a number of challenges – including potential barriers to involvement – and we ask that you keep these in mind as you consider your outreach strategies. If you have questions about how your stakeholders want, or are able to, be engaged at this time, the best thing to do is to ask them.
The chart below has some suggestions if you are considering moving your in-person outreach activities to an online or physically distanced approach.
A mix of tools and approaches may be needed to achieve the outcomes you would get from a typical in-person approach. The tools you select should be simple, accessible and as barrier-free as possible to ensure equitable outreach.
|In-person approach||Online or social distanced equivalent|
Video conferencing, telephone conferencing, pre-recorded video, question & answers (email or online)
Web page, social media content, mailed project information package, pre-recorded video, live streaming, on-site signage/materials.
Web page, online comment forms & survey, pre-recorded video, video conferencing, telephone conferencing, live streaming, telephone hotline, question & answers (email or online).
Video conferencing in combination with: online comment forms, online brainstorming.
Inform or consult
On-site information and/or feedback collection (i.e. sounding board).
Inform or consult
Large format onsite signage, live streaming, video conferencing.
How are some Calgary-based applicants/firms thinking about outreaching during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Review these information sheets to see how others are approaching outreach during this time.*
- CivicWorks: Digital + Distanced Stakeholder Outreach Framework
- IBI Group: Stakeholder Engagement in the Age of Social Distancing
*Information sheets are not endorsed by The City, but shared to support collective learning.
Do you have an information sheet or lessons learned about outreach during the pandemic to share? Email email@example.com to have your resource added to this page.
Experience has shown that the earlier in the process you consider and exercise your outreach options, the more likely it will be to contribute to successful outcomes. Outreach can help reduce conflict and eliminate surprises as potential risks or concerns can be identified sooner. For background, visit Community Outreach on Planning & Development
As an applicant, your role connected to outreach on applications is as the LEAD. As the lead, you determine if/when community outreach will take place connected to your project and, if so, decide about what, with who, where, how, etc. This page provides you with a step-by-step process to consider as you contemplate your outreach options. For more details about all of the roles and responsibilities connected to planning, please click here.
For a high-level overview of the steps involved, please review this resource: Community Outreach 101 and Checklist.
For more detail and associated tools and resources click through each of the steps below.
Step One: Do you need outreach?
There can be many reasons why you may want to involve the community and conduct outreach when contemplating a new development project. When assessing whether you want conduct outreach, think about the following:
- Do you need to involve the community in your project?
- Is the community impacted by the outcomes of your project?
- Is your development proposal a significant change for the community?
- Is there an expectation for outreach with the community on your project (by the community or the Ward Councillor?)
- Is there a need to build relationships with the community and your neighbours as your project advances?
- Are you proposing a change to the community’s local area plan?
- Are there any known community issues about your development proposal or past development projects of a similar nature?
- What is the political sensitivity of this project?
- How inclined are community members to accept this project based on past area experience?
- Do you anticipate there will be a level of disagreement between stakeholders?
- Are there decisions that will be open for input from stakeholders?
- Is input needed from the community to ensure decisions made reflect the community needs?
- Is there a need to inform the community on the details of your project?
- Are there unique or complex factors about your development proposal that should be shared with the community?
- Is the community familiar with this type of development?
Your answers to the above will help you better assess your outreach approach. When it comes to outreach led by Applicants there are no mandated requirements, but The City encourages applicants to be a good neighbor and inform the community of your project, but is ultimately up to you on whether you want to conduct outreach with the community and what that will look like. The City’s general recommended minimum approach is for applicants to complete our Outreach Assessment tool which helps applicants assess and consider the potential impact of their proposal within the context of the community they are working in and provides guidance on high-level outreach considerations. In addition to completing the Outreach Assessment tool, The City recommends connecting with the surrounding neighbours, community association or relevant member-based organizations and area Councillor early in the process to discuss their development ideas.
If you decide to pursue an outreach process proceed to step two: Developing your outreach strategy. Also depending on where you are in your project stage, The City is available to provide you specific advice on outreach and this can be through the pre-application process or by contacting your file manager.
If you decide outreach is not appropriate for your project, please prepare a rationale for why you chose not to pursue outreach and complete the Outreach Summary to submit to The City along with your application.
Step Two: Developing an outreach strategy
A community outreach strategy should outline a well-defined approach to how the community and stakeholders will be involved. As the proponent for your development project, The City encourages you determine the level of outreach you will undertake and the specific approach – including the format and tactics that work best for your project, your stakeholders and your outreach objectives. As a best practice, we suggest that you consider the local context of the community you are working in and choose the outreach tactics that most appropriate for the community and your project. This means that when responding to the needs and context of a particular community that outreach strategies can take shape in many different ways. However, they should at least consider the following steps, when determining your outreach program.
- Increase the community capacity to understand the development proposal and your project details.
- Build stronger relationships with the community and stakeholders.
- Understand community perspectives and make decisions about your development project that are informed by and consider community needs.
- Reduce conflicts and eliminate surprises by identifying potential risks or concerns earlier.
Understanding your stakeholders, their interests and level of influence is an important step in planning your outreach process. Consider mapping which stakeholders are affected by your project and who should be involved. Not all stakeholders will share the same concerns or priorities, so it is important to identify your stakeholders and analyze their influence and impact–this will help prioritize who you reach out to and when.
The City has created a guide to help you start thinking about your stakeholders and gather a better understanding of their interests.
An important step when planning your outreach efforts is to familiarize yourself with the local context and previous outreach outcomes from similar projects in the area.
Local context considers how the community likes to be engaged and what considerations should be made when selecting tactics – the local community association can be a good resource for this information. Local context factors can also include: the level of familiarity the community has with this type of development, the level redevelopment currently occurring in the community, the community’s previous experience and the relevancy of a local area planning policy process. These factors will influence the level of detail and project information you may have to share.
The City is in the process of creating local context profiles that provide high-level guidance on how the community likes to participate in outreach. The profiles will be uploaded as each community association provides this information. Initially these profiles will outline outreach considerations, but as the community completes their local area planning process, they will evolve to include information about current issues and community benefit desires.
Think about the IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation when outlining your outreach process. You should determine whether you are looking to Inform, Consult, Involve, and Collaborate or Empower your participants. Note that the spectrum is not fluid or staged process. Where you fall on the spectrum can differ for each stakeholder group and it can vary for different phases of your project.
Meaningful outreach is not as simple as a checklist or a one size fits all approach. Outreach can take shape in many ways. Tactics to implement your outreach process can include but are not limited to: meetings, phone calls, open houses, information sessions, workshops, town halls, pop-ups, design charettes, websites, social media, emails, advertisements, surveys, postcards, flyers and much more!
This guide provides an overview of some of the high-level questions to keep in mind when thinking about what tactics you want to select and an overview of the tools you could consider for your process.
If you are considering hosting in-person sessions as part of your outreach we have put together this resource to provide you with tips and considerations for those sessions.
As the proponent of your project it is up to you to determine what decisions will be open for input from stakeholders and what questions you would like to ask the public to inform decisions.
This guide provides you with some considerations to keep in mind as you design your questions and collect input.
When undertaking outreach, you should consider the needs of your stakeholders and how their needs can be accommodated in your process. Communities are comprised of a broad diversity of people with different needs. While the aim is to be inclusive at all times, it may mean you need to consider tailoring your outreach process and activities to enable some stakeholders to fully participate on an equal basis with others.
The City has created a number of inclusive engagement resources for you to refer to and consider as you are creating your outreach strategy.
Step Three: Telling your story
When preparing your outreach strategy, consider what information you need to share to help inform and educate stakeholders as they participate in your process?
The City has created a number of resources and information panels or handouts that you are welcome to use through your outreach program. These resources can contribute to better story telling about planning and development in the Calgary and can be helpful in setting the stage for the redevelopment conversation by sharing The City’s planning goals and policy objectives.
As you endeavor to create content for your outreach program, ensure that you provide clear, plain language and complete information. We suggest that you avoid using too much technical jargon. Our Plain Language Guide Language Library can help inform what you share.
Lastly, as you are considering what content to share we suggest you keep the following in mind. While the success of your project from a sales and branding perspective is ultimately important to you, we encourage that you approach your outreach efforts from a more objective lens and ensure you are sharing unbiased fact-based information about your project with the public. This is essential from a trust building standpoint and can contribute to the success of your project in the long-term.
Step Four: Raising Awareness
Now that you have outlined the majority of your outreach strategy, you need to consider how you are going to raise awareness and get people involved! The success of your outreach program is dependent upon people being aware of its existence and there are a variety of communication channels for you to consider using, some of which have already been outlined in step two.
The City has created a set of standard templates that we encourage you to use when promoting your outreach opportunities. These postcard and poster templates are optional but they aim to create a level of consistency with the public and through constant use will build awareness for applicant-led outreach.
Let the community know about any planned outreach events and consider submitting your event to be adding to the Planning & Development Calendar. This calendar includes events for all planning and development related outreach whether it is applicant or City-led.
Step Five: Connect
By this point you have successfully developed your outreach strategy and have made people aware of your project and outreach opportunities. It’s now time to connect with your stakeholders.
When connecting with stakeholders sometimes difficult conversations can occur. This guide provides you with some tips to keep in mind when dealing with emotion and outrage and how to diffuse tense situations.
Step Six: Closing the loop
One of the most important steps of any good outreach program is closing the loop and reporting back on the input received. You can do this by creating a report that you share with participants. This report should provide an overview of your outreach process, a summary of comments received and a response to how you have considered the comments and ideas raised.
By closing the loop and reporting back to stakeholders, you are ensuring that all known issues have been considered and addressed and are not hashed out on the floor of council or committee.
This City has created a resource to provide you with guidance on how to report and respond to input.
When submitting your completed application to The City, please include a summary of your outreach program by completing the below Tool:
Tool: Applicant Summary report