Council has recently set up a strategic planning steering committee to look at the direction Nanaimo will be going over the next few years. This in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce ‘Successful Cities’ initiative as well as a group ‘Vision Nanaimo’; the latter of which held a community meeting prior to the election that drew almost 300 people. It should be noted that this meeting was not broadly advertized and that the majority of those attending were members of the Chamber, Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association (DNBIA), as well as those individuals, like me, already linked in to city happenings.
A couple of questions; does the City need to do a strategic plan, spending approx. $160,000.00; and could the same not be accomplished through the other two groups at no cost to the City? Will these three plans somehow be integrated? These questions aside, as this process is moving forward; how much real involvement and input will the broad community have?
As those that paid attention to the election should recall almost every candidate running spoke of broader Community input and consultation. The basic process for the strategic plan will involve the following components:
Ø an environmental scan;
Ø an identification of current commitments from existing plans, reports and
Ø Council decisions;
Ø interviews with Council and the management team;
Ø a staff workshop;
Ø a survey of members of committees, commissions and boards;
Ø a Council/senior staff workshop;
Ø development of a draft strategic plan; and
Ø an opportunity for the community to respond to the plan draft;
with a follow up, or enhanced component of these components:
Ø a significant community engagement process to renew the community vision
(including neighbourhood meetings, a youth process, a business symposium
and a survey of community leaders);
Ø an ongoing Strategic Plan Blog that would seek directed input at key points
and facilitate non-directed discussion;
Ø interviews with community leaders prior to the Council/senior staff workshop;
Ø Task Teams consisting of staff and related external experts and community
representatives to develop strategies and actions for each identified priority.
On the face of it this all sounds good though from the past ‘community involvement’ simply consisted of Public Open Houses, advertised once or twice in local newspapers and on the city website, where the community would see a number of information boards and be able to give feedback aka. “an opportunity for the community to respond to the plan draft”. These meetings were generally held once in 3 or 4 locations and tend to have an extremely small turnout from the broad community.
These processes have tended to rely more on specific interest groups, Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development, DNP etc., for feedback and less on the broad community. It has always been my opinion that rather than ‘Stakeholders’ setting the agenda with community giving feedback on developed plan last it should be the community that sets the agenda first. Approach the broad community and once we know what the community wants then narrow down the focus and bring in the special interest groups. As drafts are developed then bring back to the broad community.
Will this one be different, seeking more input from the general community, and if so how does the City plan to make it so?
Agenda (Strategic Planning pgs 26/27)