Montgomery Parks Outreach Strategy and Implementation Plan
The National Center for Smart Growth
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CJRT is developing a long-term minority outreach engagement strategy and implementation plan for Montgomery Parks, an agency within the Maryland-National Capital Planning Park Commission (M-NCPPC). Montgomery Parks is a bi-county governmental agency serving over one million Montgomery County, Maryland residents as well as residents from the larger Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. metro area. Over one third of Montgomery County’s residents are foreign-born and approximately 14 percent have limited English proficiency according to Montgomery County’s Limited English Proficiency Annual Report (2011). M-NCPPC’s mission is to: “Protect and interpret our valuable natural and cultural resources; balance demand for recreation with the need for conservation; offer various enjoyable recreational activities that encourage healthy lifestyles; and provide clean, safe, and accessible places.” As in many communities, Montgomery Parks faces challenges attracting and developing long-term engagement with specific underrepresented groups, which is a direct threat to their ability to provide accessible parks and facilities. This outreach and engagement issue, while pervasive among many state-run and national agencies, stems from a complex array of barriers including: language, culture, geographic location, economic status, values and perceptions. Alongside the social and economic barriers, improving long-term engagement with these underrepresented groups will have to address and ameliorate beliefs that agencies do not care about them, do not listen or are irrelevant to them. Overall, the goals of this effort are to provide our client with a cost-efficient, effective, and sustainable communication strategy, and to provide an implementation strategy to achieve improved outreach, engaging non-typical park users. The report provides the following recommendations: Increase and expand translation, focusing first on “high-touch” resources; Increase targeted advertising to populations (we focused on three large populations, American born African-Americans, Latinos/Hispanics, and Chinese): African-Americans: through schools, churches, and national Pan-Hellenic council, Latinos/Hispanics: churches and public schools, Chinese: ethnic grocery stores/markets, language schools, public schools, and community centers; Hire full-time staff with expertise in minority outreach, preferably bilingual, to help Montgomery Parks navigate and oversee community outreach to minorities; Hire “hubs” (community brokers) or community residents to act as ambassadors and help create pilot outreach programs; Require cultural competency training for Montgomery Parks staff. Additionally, to ease implementation, we recommend a phased implementation of the above initiatives with the associated baseline costs: Phase 1: includes hiring new personnel, requiring cultural competency, starting translation of key documents in key languages ($77,090); Phase 2: includes hiring the hubs and beginning pilot outreach programs, as well as expanding translation services ($99,650); Phase 3: expansion of previous outreach programs, development of the Community Engagement Office ($92,850).