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Do you see what I see? Using real time graphic facilitation to engage the public.

Getting the public passionate about contributing ideas to a community development project isn’t for the faint of heart, but our own Shasta McCoy is more than up to the challenge. Shasta, a Landscape Architect by day and equally avid creative after work (that’s when you’ll find her working on a children’s book, crafting felted fiber art or stand up whitewater paddle boarding—yes you heard that right) says to get active engagement across the community you need a lot of different tools in your toolkit, and to be willing to adapt as you go.

A Shared Picture

The Plasticine Table at Lake Country’s Party in the Park event
Shasta recently facilitated a booth called the “Imagination Nook” at a community event called Party in the Park, held to engage community members of Lake Country around the new Parks and Recreation Master Plan, a project jointly awarded to Urban Systems and architecture firm Thinkspace in June 2015. Her role on the project is to engage the public and gather feedback and ideas, to hear what citizens of Lake Country have to say.

“It’s common to get a lot of retired people at community engagement events, but really difficult to get younger people and people with children to come and share their opinions,” Shasta explains. “If you’re not really careful, you only hear from a certain group of people.”

So what to do? You host an event that attracts everyone. “We freely admit that we have to bait some people a little,” she laughs. “We will try anything. At this event we had free hot dogs, we had childcare, and even a bouncy castle for the kids.”

Shasta’s booth at the event was all about helping people visualize. She was on hand to draw, in real time, community member’s ideas as they thought them through. She also had a modeling station where people could sculpt out their ideas with plasticine, wire string and play doh, and a drawing station where people could sketch out their own ideas.

Drawing On Inspiration

UrbanSystems_BikeParkShasta believes that when people are able to create and shape—whether drawing or modeling—they’re using a different part of the brain than when just talking. “I think there’s a lot of value in that in getting people to think with their whole brain rather than using a small portion.”

Whereas much public engagement in BC is still done using the traditional open house format, Shasta sees people trying new ways to reach people and hopes to see that trend grow. She says a lot rests in the client—in this case Lake Country was very committed to using different avenues to reach people.

“The client has to genuinely want to know what their community is thinking. Lake Country is sincere in that, and have given us the freedom to propose different ways to achieve it. I hope to see that as a continuing trend.”

The information gathered by Shasta and her team will feed into input delivered to the client. She says it will give them a richer picture to look at when finalizing planning. There will be some future engagements with stakeholders coming up soon, and Shasta plans to use her modeling and drawing tools again.

“People are constantly impressing me with their ideas and their ability. When people say they’re not creative, now I challenge them and say, well I bet you are you just have to try.”

To view some of Shasta’s other landscape visualization work watch the video below.

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