Outreach & Communications Committee
to be announced
Until our meeting on May 21st, 2019 this committee had not met since April, 2018. The overall purpose of the committee is to communicate about activities of the Council to existing and prospective members and to draw more people in the Union Square area into its operations. Efforts are now (March/April, 2020) being made to put energy into bringing this committee back to life.
Following is the draft of a proposed mission statement for the committee.
Mission and Purpose
The outreach and communications committee exists in order to
- provide useful information to members and others in the Union Square area on matters related to the development and transformation of the area now underway and that is expected to proceed over the course of the next several decades,
- conduct outreach to prospective members in order to increase our overall membership,
- enhance the greatest possible participation of present and future USNC members,
- enable and promote communication among general members and members of the board with regard to activities of the Council, both at general meetings and in other ways,
- ensure that communication regarding direction and priorities received through channels we establish is seen by board members and is addressed and acted upon in a way that is generally satisfactory to the general membership as a whole, and
- work to make real the values spoken of in our bylaws, both by means of the points listed above and in other ways we may later determine.
In order for the USNC to function effectively, it must live up to the expectations of members of the working group which brought it into being through their efforts by means of frequent meetings they attended over the course of the entire year of 2017. Those expectations are embodied in the opening section of our bylaws (which have been approved by the general membership by means of a vote) particularly in Section 2. In that section, we find evidence of the determination of the working group to promote certain values, which include:
We recognize our need for and reliance upon one another, given form in real community, which has the capacity to enhance and enrich our lives immeasurably.
We embrace the contributions of all community members and believe the diversity of our backgrounds inherently increases the strength and resilience of our community.
We encourage the engagement of all in making decisions that affect us.
We believe that the best decisions are reached through full access to information and open dialogue.
2.3.9: Civic Engagement
We endeavor to educate, inform, and include our neighbors in the process of their governance...
These items taken together indicate a recognition of the importance of working with one another to extend our reach to as many people in the Union Square area as possible in our overall effort to both represent them and to include whatever energies they might care to expend on behalf of their own interests and those of particular sub-groupings with which they may identify. These values also imply the necessity of becoming determined to conduct our efforts in such a way that we keep those on whose behalf the USNC operates well informed and to establish and maintain means by which the needs of all members can be addressed in a way that they find satisfactory. They also mean that our communications with our membership and others must be bidirectional; we have to find ways to enable dialogue among our general membership which is both taken seriously by and used to inform decisions of our board on behalf of our membership.
Evidence of the Need
The “community meeting” held at the Argenziano School on March 27th, 2019 provided what can be read as a fairly strong indication both that there is substantial interest in participation in working together to think through what we want to see happen in the Union Square area over the course of redevelopment and that there is substantial dissatisfaction with some of the directions in which thinking by developers and city government are proceeding with respect to a number of important matters. People were eager to express their feelings and ideas, and disappointed that it was not possible in the time allotted for the representative of the master developer and their USNC negotiating partners to provide adequate responses. This performance echoes the experience of those who took part in public “charettes” and “open house” events conducted over the course of the past several years, where, despite good intent and lots of participation, relatively few of the comments voiced by members of the public were addressed in an adequate fashion.
“Outreach” can be seen to be about doing what is required to set up good lines of communication with local citizens who stand to be affected by development. To be effective and worthwhile, “communication” must be bidirectional and must result in a sufficiently great level of satisfaction with regard to questions and concerns being properly addressed and taken into account in design and overall decision making.
As a committee, we must think through how to do outreach and how to set up and maintain good communications among members, both with one another and with regard to their interactions with board members, so that what the USNC actually does satisfies the needs of those on whose behalf it operates. Among the possible methods we can consider are informal member meetings separate from the meetings now being conducted and the use of electronic communications via web forums. We also need to think through how to make the web site as functional and effective as possible for purposes of information sharing and promoting collaboration, and how to share the work load in an equitable fashion that takes best advantage of the skills and interests of committee members. Most importantly, we must work to recruit people willing to work together actively to assist with what needs to be done, both with regard to a number of critical functions and with respect to advising the board as to what is expected of them by the general membership.