Shrink My Problems: How Psychology Can Help Save Your Public Process

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Information about Shrink My Problems: How Psychology Can Help Save Your Public Process

Published on January 21, 2016

Author: EmilyPGErickson


1. Techniques and lessons in community engagement from Saint Paul, Minnesota presented by Emily P.G. Erickson Shrink My Problems: How psychology can help save your public process

2. Saint Paul, Minnesota

3. Sustainable  Transporta0on  Planner   est.  January  2011   •  Facilita(ng  a  balanced  and  flexible   transporta(on  system  in  Saint  Paul.   –  Coordina(on   –  Planning   –  Implementa(on  

4. Psychology •  Academic and applied discipline that involves the scientific study of mental functions and behaviors •  Goal of understanding individuals and groups •  Psychotherapy: “A planned, emotionally charged, confiding interaction between a trained, socially sanctioned healer and a sufferer.”

5. Psycho-logy?

6. Freud says… 1.  Meticulous method 2.  Manage your message 3.  Meeting not a mob

7. The fine print •  Caveats –  Not going to be able to please all of the people (generally best can expect is 85%) –  Politics remain •  Benefits –  Support –  Insight

8. Meticulous method Lay out what you’re going to do, do it to the best of your ability, and show people you did it. •  Psychology at play –  Procedural justice (Thibaut & Walker, 1975) –  Social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner) •  How to use it to your advantage –  Clarify rights and responsibilities –  Demonstrate freedom from bias, consistency, good-faith effort •  Project timeline/next steps •  Up-to-date multiple channels of information •  Early and easy-to-understand notification •  Document and share    

9. Manage your message What we say (and don’t say) and how we say it has a very real impact on how people will react. •  Psychology at play –  Linguistic determinism hypothesis: different languages impose different conceptions of reality (Whorf, 1956) –  Presenting issues in different ways elicits different responses (Marteau, 1989; McNeil & others, 1988; Rothman & Salovey, 1997) –  “Telling more than we can know,” (Nisbett and Wilson, 1977) •  How to use it to your advantage –  Frame your message –  Control the message •  Say the thing you’re most afraid they will first

10. Meeting not a mob In-person community engagement experiences should improve buy-in and add insight, not be a platform for venting. •  Psychology at play –  Individuals •  Theories of self: Belief = self, change of belief = annihilation of self •  Confirmation bias (Wason, 1960) •  Venting can add fuel to an anger cycle –  Group pressure and conformity (Asch, 1955) •  Fundamental attribution error: Overestimating the influence of personality and underestimating the influence of situations (Heider, 1958) •  Mood contagion (Neumann & Strack, 2000) •  Group polarization: If group is like minded, discussion strengthens its prevailing opinions (Bishop, 2004) •  Compliance with social pressure dominant behavior (Milgram, 1963, 1974) •  Normative social influence: We are sensitive to social norms – understood rules for accepted and expected behavior •  Seeing another person’s eyes fosters empathy and communication (Lapidot-Lefler, 2012) •  Foot-in-the-door phenomenon (Cialdini, 1993) •  How to use it to your advantage –  Select and arrange the space carefully –  Ground rules –  Get early buy-in on something –  Establish caring and empathy

11. Saint Paul Case Studies

12. Jefferson Avenue Bikeway: Take 1 •  February 2008: City applied for FHWA Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Project funding for complimentary bike boulevards on Highland Parkway and Jefferson Avenue. Only Highland Parkway was awarded funding at the time. The District Council voted to discontinue this project. •  March 2009: City reapplied for funding for a project located entirely on Jefferson, which would establish a 4-mile east- west connection on this residential street

13. Jefferson Avenue Bikeway: Take 1 (What not to do) •  Message –  Instructed not to come across as supportive –  Left a lot of information unsaid •  Method –  No clear community engagement plan communicated to public –  13 public meetings with unclear ownership –  Poor website (e.g., no contact person, no handouts, etc.) •  Mobs –  Over a dozen public meetings –  No ground rules –  Auditorium style seating –  Yelling, etc. permitted

14. Jefferson Avenue Bikeway: Take 1 Outcome

15. Jefferson Avenue Bikeway: Take 2 (Intervention)

16. Jefferson Avenue Bikeway: Take 2 Meticulous methods •  Laid out the project timeline, and stuck to it or gave plenty of notice for a change •  Established ground rules, “We’ve got a lot to cover in our limited time tonight, so In the interest of efficiency, I ask that you keep your questions and comments until the appropriate time. I appreciate your patience.” •  Told public how input would be used, and proved it

17. Jefferson Avenue Bikeway: Take 2 Manage your message •  Traffic calming toolbox: Shared benefits and drawbacks of each potential treatment and project cost, to provide similar context for each •  Included slides on what wasn’t in traffic calming toolbox (e.g., stop light, stop sign, etc.) •  Framing public comments with analysis cover sheet, e.g., “Two sided parking: 10 different people concerned (11% of those who provided feedback)”

18. Jefferson Avenue Bikeway: Take 2 Meeting not a mob –  Ground rules –  Used active listening in responding to comments (e.g., “I understand that you are worried about snow removal, and we were too, so…”) –  Selected and arranged the space as best we could to promote civil behavior –  Demonstrated honesty and trustworthiness through information shared

19. Jefferson Avenue Bikeway: Take 2 Outcome •  82% approval rating on most controversial design element •  City Council approval of community supported plan •  Added bonus: Councilmember who tweaked plan at last minute was called out by those who testified for undermining public process

20. Griggs Street Bikeway •  Transportation Plan –  T3.8 “Promote ‘bicycle boulevards’ as a new type of bikeway.” •  Bike Walk Central Corridor Action Plan –  Griggs Street Proposed regional bikeway –  Priority: Provide combination of bike lanes and bike boulevard treatments from Summit Avenue to Minnehaha Avenue •  Funding through FHWA’s Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Project

21. Griggs Street Bikeway Meticulous method

22. Griggs Street Bikeway Manage your message

23. Griggs Street Bikeway Meeting not a mob

24. Griggs Street Bikeway Outcome •  Of the traffic calming treatments that we proposed, we received an average of 91% of the surveyed population being in favor of or open to the treatments •  Of the free response, approximately 85% was positive and supportive of the bikeway and the treatments staff ultimately recommended. •  Last minute community opposition; staff was prepared with evidence to undermine significance of opposition •  City Council approved project with tweak

25. The least you need to know… 1.  Manage your message. 2.  Meticulous method. 3.  Meeting not a mob. Emily P.G. Erickson Sustainable Transportation Planner City of Saint Paul

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