Lessons from Next Stop Revere
Written By: Iolando Spinola, Community Engagement Specialist II
Revere, Massachusetts is a city of immigrants, founded on waves of migrations from countries across the globe. About 37% of Revere’s residents identified as foreign-born in recent years and over 50% are non-native English speakers. Due to this, a wide range of cultural identities and languages must be considered when undertaking planning and development in the city.
That’s why the City of Revere partnered with MAPC in 2019 to create its first comprehensive master plan in more than four decades, Next Stop Revere. MAPC created an inclusive community engagement strategy that included outreach in English, Arabic, Haitian Creole, Khmer, Portuguese, and Spanish. Over 500 people participated in a citywide survey, over 400 attendees participated in community forums, and 50 people were part of focus groups.
Top Three Lessons We Learned from Next Stop Revere
- Reducing barriers to engagement should be top of mind when planning public outreach.
- Equitable community engagement requires intentional partnership, relationship building, transparency, and meaningful collaboration.
- Training and investing in local stakeholders strengthens local planning capacity and builds civic infrastructure.
Community members were eager to participate in the planning for the future of the City of Revere, but for many, attending meetings is difficult. Families might struggle to attend an evening event if they must secure a babysitter, so Next Stop Revere events included childcare for families. To build a truly inclusive civic culture, it is important to provide such accommodation at many, if not all, events. The more childcare is provided at public meetings, the more residents will expect it and attend.
Language can also be a barrier: that’s why Next Stop Revere prioritized providing language services at all public events. Key materials were translated into five non-English languages that were widely spoken in Revere public schools: Spanish, Portuguese, Khmer, Arabic, and Haitian Creole. Spanish interpreters were also available at all Next Stop Revere events. Promotion materials like flyers were translated into all five languages.
The team also worked creatively to leverage existing town resources, holding meetings in welcoming and centrally-located locations like schools and museums and drawing on existing youth program staff employed by the Parks and Recreation Department.
Equitable Community Engagement
Project leaders must keep in mind that providing interpretation and translation services alone does not guarantee participation by non-English speakers, and relationships need to be formed and nurtured over time. The community engagement team formed key relationships with community partners, including Fatou Drammeh, who works with the English language learners at the Revere Community School (RCS). Fatou helped connect the Next Stop Revere team with new language learners and empowered her students to share feedback.
Connecting with people like Fatou who have existing relationships with key groups will help convene important diverse voices. But making these connection requires trust building and accountability between project leads and these community spokespeople. Next Stop Revere team members made a point to connect with these leaders and explain how the plan related to their concerns: "transportation" isn't just a matter of traffic engineering, for example, but encompasses concerns like safe street crossings and the ability to commute by bus.
Training Local Stakeholders
When working on a big project, limited staff or organizational capacity can be a barrier to a robust civic participation process. Addressing that lack of capacity by training volunteers allowed us to build stronger civic infrastructure for this project and the future. For Next Stop Revere, MAPC and the City of Revere wanted to collect insights and feedback from a diverse range of stakeholders through focus groups, but didn’t have the capacity to host all of them. So, the city and MAPC connected with community members and trained them on holding meaningful focus groups and gathering feedback. The training included best practices regarding facilitation, note taking, asking probing questions, and community connectivity. With the support of these local partners, MAPC was able to collect answers to key questions from about 50 participants.
Next Stop Revere was an exciting opportunity for the City of Revere to build relationships and begin to understand what barriers to participation can be addressed going forward. The city has continued to supply interpretation, translation, and childcare services; to partner with a wide range of community-based organizations; and to provide training and resources to partners interested in civic participation.
These new relationships and practices will continue beyond the master plan: Revere's staff have expanded their capacity to leverage the city’s rich social networks in other projects. Civic infrastructure is something that can easily be neglected--its decay is in many ways invisible--but when municipalities make the investment, it can pay off significantly.
Want to learn more about Next Stop Revere? Go to the master plan’s website: https://www.revere.org/next-stop-revere/
For more on community engagement at MAPC, and to learn how to work with our team, visit www.mapc.org/our-work/services-for-cities-towns/community-engagement.