Following a report on economic inequity in the city and a fatal officer-involved shooting in late 2016, Charlotte, North Carolina looked to engage the community in meaningful ways.
Address issues related to safety, trust and accountability (community policing), housing and good paying jobs
Following a report on economic inequity in the city and a fatal officer-involved shooting in late 2016, Charlotte, North Carolina looked to engage the community in meaningful ways through their Community Letter Engagement Initiative. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee and the Community Building Initiative provided a space for employees and community members to engage and share their points of view about race and police community relations and have open dialogue about matters that impact them and the community. Peer Perspectives (for city employees) and Can We Talk? dialogues (for the larger community) were forums offered in various locations with the goal of building trust and understanding. Over 1,374 people participated in the dialogues over a six-months.
Peer Perspectives challenged city employees to break out of their comfort zone. During the sessions, individual opinions, fears, hopefulness and confusion were expressed, all indicative of the complex issues that the community is facing. Being able to explore the intersections of race, age, gender and personal experiences in a professional setting was a truly unique experience. The conversations were powerful as they touched the individuals who have the ability to make change and address issues, city staff and community members.
The Can We Talk? dialogues offered community members from all walks of life an opportunity to have transparent dialogue with city leaders and police officers. The dialogues also allowed individuals to make personal commitments to be part of the solutions that will help make Charlotte the best city for all. Part of the dialogue was around Charlotte City Council’s Letter to the Community and ensuring that participants understood the city’s efforts based on community concerns.
In addition to the dialogues, the city launched the second part of their Community Letter Engagement Initiative. Called Take10CLT, city staff and civic leaders shared information and materials about the content of the Community Letter and city goals, engaging in meaningful connections through personal conversations and receiving valuable feedback. The conversations were about taking just 10 minutes to talk about important community issues. Notes on the conversations were compiled and analyzed to be used for decision-making and broader understanding. Residents were also connected with existing city resources when needs and opportunities were identified.
The city also recognized a unique opportunity to utilize the customer service phone ambassadors (part of Charlotte’s 311 call center), the Charlotte Youth Council and resident leaders from the Civic Leadership Academy to share information about the Community Letter and ask Charlotteans about what mattered most to them and their families when it came to safety, trust, accountability, affordable housing and jobs. They also asked for their ideas to make Charlotte a better place for all people. The City of Charlotte reached just shy of 8,000 residents with Take 10CLT and continues to capitalize on this engagement infrastructure and build on the relationships formed. The Community Letter Engagement Initiative, which was comprised of these two linked engagement efforts, facilitated dialogues and one-on-one conversations, reached almost 10,000 diverse residents, spanned racial demographics, and conversations were held in multiple languages.
In the year following the initiative the following achievements were made: