Community Engagement in the Time of Coronavirus

Community Engagement in the Time of Coronavirus

Triangle is founded on the idea that community engagement is critical to shaping public policies and projects that are equitable and sustainable. But how can community members be engaged during the worse pandemic in a century?

In the summer of 2020, Triangle developed a COVID-safe outreach strategy to help the North Counties Transportation Coalition (NCTC) create an innovative transit service for the residents of Camano Island and North Snohomish County.

The NCTC drafted a survey to hear about transportation challenges from people aging in place, with low incomes, and/or with physical disabilities. Notably, people aging in place are more susceptible to COVID, which added an extra layer of caution and challenge to creating an outreach strategy. Instead of relying on usual survey outreach methods like setting up tables at festivals or attending existing meetings, Triangle used a three-prong approach for COVID-safe outreach: (1) phone banking; (2) in-person distribution through trusted community partners; and (3) online survey dissemination.

Local community and senior centers on Camano Island and North Snohomish County shared their contacts with Triangle so we could conduct surveys over the phone and understand the transportation needs of these community members. Our team called hundreds of residents and had a higher response rate than typical times since many people were at home due to COVID.

Triangle also recognized that while most “business as usual” was halted in the face of COVID, there were some essential service providers who were still having regular contact with community members. Our team worked with assisted living organizations and other facilities for older adults to hand deliver hard copies of surveys to fill out and return to us.

And we also relied on an online version of the survey to hear from community members about their transportation issues and preferences. We recognized that in a pandemic, most residents were saturated with news and information, and that it was going to be difficult to break through the noise to encourage participation in a transportation survey. To address this challenge, Triangle relied on local transit agencies, nonprofit organizations, and community-based organizations to distribute the survey to their networks. In other words, these partners distributed the survey to people who already knew and trusted them.

Triangle produced a final report for the NCTC that highlighted the results from our outreach. This report will help the NCTC develop an innovative transportation project for Camano Island and North Snohomish County. Click here to view the final report.

In a time when community members and public agencies are quickly adapting in the face of COVID, our team at Triangle Associates is adapting alongside them. While the strategies we use may change, Triangle remains committed to the underlying principle that equitable and sustainable decisions are made through engaging community members on the issues that matter to them most.  

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