By Kristy Dixon

We’re profiling Calgary’s inspiring 2018 Gold Quill winners! The second chat in our series is with Peggy Chan and Andrea Sichewski from The City of Calgary for their project, Rebuilding Trust: Crowchild Trail Study, which won an Award of Excellence in the Community Relations category.

Can you share a brief overview of your winning project?

From 2014 to 2016, the Crowchild Trail Study worked with thousands of Calgarians to identify future plans for the Crowchild Trail corridor between 24 Ave N.W. and 17 Ave. S.W.

The previous iteration of study presented preliminary plans to the public for feedback, with limited public input when developing the plans. This left strong feelings of distrust and outrage among residents in adjacent communities. The study was put on hold by City Council in 2012.

The new Crowchild Trail Study aimed to rebuild trust and credibility by demonstrating openness and transparency, by being responsive to stakeholder issues and concerns, and by providing information stakeholders needed for meaningful participation throughout the study process.

Peggy Chan

What did you feel most proud of in this project?

Peggy: I am most proud of how our multidisciplinary project team of engineers, and communications and engagement practitioners were able to bring our expertise together to show citizens how stakeholder input was used (or not used) in project decisions. It was rewarding to hear community stakeholders describe the study process as exemplary and the “gold standard” at the final City Council meeting.

Andrea: We had a brilliant, outstanding team who developed a study process that delivered meaningful results. I’m most proud of how the communications strategy made a demonstrable contribution to project success. The trust we built with communities and stakeholders helped make way for the team now managing construction on Crowchild, and provides a positive foundation for future projects with these communities.

Andrea Sichewski

What was a key challenge you faced with the project?

Peggy: Overcoming the perception of opposing interests was challenging. Residents felt it was unfair for their communities to absorb all the negative impacts while commuters get all the benefits of a faster commute. Once we were able to identify how the project will help address communities’ concerns and interests, we were able to move the conversation forward. This was a significant turning point in the project.

Andrea: Another key challenge was explaining complex technical information in plain language. Purposeful storytelling using photos, illustrations, and other visuals helped stakeholders better understand technical concepts, impacts, and how decisions were made. We also created videos to help stakeholders better understand the two-year study process and the study recommendations.

What made this project creative or innovative?

Peggy: In response to what we heard from stakeholders, we created an interactive story map to show how Crowchild Trail and bordering communities developed together as Calgary’s population grew over time.

The interactive map allows users to compare historical and current information in a geo-spatial manner in a way that traditional web content would not have made possible. We also hosted walking tours of the study areas to facilitate 2-way dialogues between technical staff and community members. This aligned with our objectives to demonstrate openness and transparency by enabling participants to experience issues from a variety of perspectives.

Andrea: We went above and beyond issuing news releases to help reporters tell a more compelling story of the study. We hosted media availabilities next to Crowchild Trail and displayed design concepts in large scale to provide reporters with a striking comparison between current conditions and possible upgrades.

Digital media kits with additional photos and b-roll of the corridor provided supplementary visuals, and helped those unable to attend to cover the story.

What’s one word to describe this project?

Peggy: Collaborative. From working with an 18-member citizen Engagement Design Team at the start of the project, to inviting Calgarians to share their ideas, to working with participants to evaluate, refine and finalize recommendations, everyone involved in the study took this value to heart.

Watch this video to hear from Calgarians about the study process.

Andrea: I couldn’t agree with Peggy’s response more. Building strong relationships, listening and understanding varying perspectives, and working together with stakeholders resulted in a well-balanced plan.

How does winning a Gold Quill help your communications career?

Peggy: Being recognized among a global community of industry professionals is such an incredible honour. This is definitely a highlight of my communications career! It is reaffirming to know that the work I do has served my city in a positive way. I’m so pleased that I can help bring this recognition to The City of Calgary, and share it with everyone who worked on this project.

Andrea: It’s exhilarating to be recognized and receive one the most prestigious awards in the communications industry. As Peggy mentioned, being awarded excellence in strategic communication worldwide not only helps build The City of Calgary’s positive reputation but demonstrates that the work we did took an insightful approach and delivered meaningful results.

Congratulations to this winning team that also included ISL Engineering and Russell PR. Last but not least, a huge thanks to Andrea and Peggy for their time responding to our questions!

To learn more about Gold Quill click here.

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