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Community engagement could end up being Rebuild’s most important outcome

West Philadelphia’s Clark Park. May 22, 2017 Category: FeaturedMethodShort
It was late last year that we learned more about Rebuild, the city’s new six- to eight-year initiative improving its large swath of recreation centers, parks and libraries under Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration.

Among its set goals, Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell said the $500M project would have a focus on “equity and leverage investment” for the communities it would impact.

But to truly have an impact on communities wherein these civic assets are being changed, community engagement from the city government is needed — and according to PlanPhilly, it may be one of the most important aspects of the initiative in the long run.

It’s expected that the City Council members and nonprofits that would head the improvement projects will be mostly responsible for figuring out how best to engage the community. So far, the proposed structure for the initiative revolves around nonprofits being able to effectively communicate to the city how their plans for improving parks, rec centers and libraries best represent the community’s interests.

“The engagement process is about talking to the people that live around and use the site to validate that information, identify other issues, understand the community’s challenges with and aspirations for the site, and develop a set of proposed improvements based on that information,” David Gould, deputy director of community engagement and communications for Rebuild, told PlanPhilly.

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The administration also hopes to implement more innovative outreach to engage people who don’t regularly interact with these kinds of civic assets — things like art projects for adding color to rec center entranceways and projects that lower the language or culture barriers for neighborhoods with significant immigrant populations.

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It all seems to be a continuation of the city’s increasing push to include the people in its strategic design of improving services overall.

“It’s extending the qualities of a real relationship between the government and its citizens,” said Mike DiBerardinis, managing director of Rebuild.

But the initiative doesn’t come without its critics, like Council President Darrell Clarke who seems to be skeptical of whether or not committing resources specifically toward engagement will be any help. Not to mention the delay of the initiative’s launch due to hesitation over the soda tax.

If you’re interested in learning more about Rebuild and its potential impact, the city’s Philadelphia Adult Literacy Alliance is hosting its next quarterly meeting on Wednesday to talk about how the adult education community can and will get involved.

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Rebuild

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