1. Meaningful community engagement
Anthonia Ogundele reinforced the need for communities to be brought into decision-making processes at the front end of any policy or planning process. If a project is already in motion, opportunities for true collaboration with community members become limited.
2. Urban professionals must demonstrate humility and flexibility
Tamika Butler underlined the importance of listening with curiosity, and acknowledging that the work you are doing is not guided by you. Urban professionals must be willing not only to listen to community input, but also to build into their projects the flexibility to alter the direction or timeline of their projects based on what they hear from residents.
3. We need to learn to respect different forms of knowledge
Will Prosper emphasized the importance of recognizing and respecting different kinds of intelligence at the table—including emotional, lived, place-based, and academic. When we exclude community members from these conversations, we forgo valuable expertise and experience.
4. We must not shy away from conflict
Orlando Bailey argued that urban professionals need to create space for conflict in community engagement processes. Jay Pitter underscored this point, arguing that it is the responsibility of urban professionals not to shy away from anger, which is a secondary emotion. The panelists agreed that we have to understand the underlying causes of community anger, which is often a signal of feeling unheard, unappreciated, and unvalued. We must provide the space for past traumas to be expressed.
5. Reciprocity is vital
Jay Pitter underlined the importance of reciprocity. A strong social contract needs to be in place with every urban project, and urban professionals need to be clear about the tangible benefits we are extending to community, in addition to what we are asking of them.