Eight Recommendations Proposed to Guide IDOT to Engage in More Effective Public Engagement Practices — News Story

Presented in Report Developed by the Urban Transportation Center and Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement at UIC

IAP2 Spectrum of Public ParticipationCHICAGO (July 2016) – Learning more about the cultural makeup of particular communities, leveraging existing knowledge and relationships, and communicating with people informally in places they gather on a regular basis are practices the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) can follow to bolster engagement practices with citizens across the state.

These are among the eight recommendations proposed in a new research report designed to provide a roadmap of sorts for the transportation agency in order to expand and improve outreach initiatives aimed at the general public and grow efforts to reach disadvantaged or underserved communities.

The recommendations are cited in “Recommendations to Enhance Quality Public Engagement,” a study managed by the Urban Transportation Center and completed by a team at the Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement at the University of Illinois at Chicago. They were prepared in advance of an update to IDOT’s Long Range Transportation Plan, now under development.

Other recommendations proposed center on these topics:

  • IDOT staff should match specific public engagement initiatives with the anticipated goal and the context of the effort.
  • In-house training can make staff better at facilitating activities and improve the understanding of diverse population groups.
  • The department will improve engagement efforts through development of a centralized database containing case studies and lessons learned.
  • A process to measure and assess completed initiatives will let IDOT allocate resources more effectively.
  • Existing technological communications resources should be employed to supplement in-person meetings and events.

To develop the recommendations, researchers followed a model that identified five stages of public participation – inform, consult, involve, collaborate and empower — and “promises to the public” associated with each stage.  Also, the team studied case histories on successful public engagement programs completed by four other state transportation departments, a community college and a regional planning organization.

One general conclusion realized is that effective public engagement will require time and commitment by IDOT. As stated in the report: “There are no real shortcuts to quality public engagement, but there are ways to do it better and more effectively. A continued application of these practices will help IDOT develop the in-house expertise needed to achieve public engagement that is worthwhile to practitioners and participants alike.”

The report was prepared by: Robert E. Ginsburg, Ph.D., Joseph Hoereth, Ph.D. Jordan Jones,  and Matt E. Sweeney.

Visit this page to view an abstract of the IDOT engagement report and get access to the complete report.

The Urban Transportation Center (UTC) at UIC is dedicated to conducting research and education and providing technical assistance on urban transportation planning, policy, operations, finance and management. The UTC is part of the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, a nationally-recognized innovator in education, research, and engagement in support of the nation’s cities and metropolitan areas.

The Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement (IPCE) focuses on transforming democracy by creating a more fully engaged citizenry with more effective leaders. As a catalyst for learning and action, the Institute creates opportunities for scholars, concerned citizens, students, and government officials to actively participate in social discourse, research, and educational programs on policy issues and social trends.