"YOU'RE GOING TO DO WHAT TO MY NEIGHBORHOOD?” The importance of coordinated community outreach for infrastructure projects
Abstract:Infrastructure projects are crucial for safe, reliable water and wastewater services. Yet, the same project that will benefit hundreds, if not thousands, of customers can be perceived by nearby neighbors as a threat to their most cherished values: family health and safety; property security; home value; comfort, peace and quiet. Unaddressed, neighbors' negative perception of work conducted for infrastructure improvement can tarnish a utility's reputation, devour time and resources, and bring a standstill to even the most technically well planned project.
The experience of Las Virgenes Municipal Water District during a pipeline realignment outside it's own service area demonstrates the benefits of early communication with affected neighbors, broad and well planned outreach, and continuing contact throughout the project. It shows the importance and benefits of meshing technical and communications efforts early on, ongoing coordination throughout the project, and implementation of Best Communications Practices, such as identification of key audiences, involvement of community leaders, use of a range of communication techniques, careful selection of spokespersons, sustained and repeated messaging.
Included in this paper are ideas for successful outreach through each phase of a project; alerts to problems; methods for aligning project goals with those of community outreach; and the importance of constant communication and coordination within the utility.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: January 1, 2006
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