FresnoCOG learns how to say “transit” in five different languages

fresnoCOg-photo2-300x199.jpgCommunity members showed up in force to make their voices heard at FresnoCOG’s May workshops for their upcoming Regional Transportation Plan.

Via partnerships with leaders who have deep community engagement, these workshops set records for attendance and cultural diversity. These ten workshops, held across the county’s large area, welcomed over 300 people speaking 5 different languages — English, Hmong, Laotian, Punjabi, and Spanish.

The amazing and diverse attendance was only possible because FresnoCOG partnered with the true experts in public outreach, local community-based organizations. They invited community groups, schools, and other civic institutions to apply for mini-grants of $1500-$3000 to host public workshops and encourage people to attend.

To seize upon this great opportunity, ClimatePlan, in coordination with California Rural Legal Assistance, provided micro-grants to several of these organizations using funds available from the Irvine Foundation. These funds ensured that community organizations could devote significant staff time to community education and outreach in advance of these workshops.

One community group, the Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program (CCROPP) hosted or co-hosted four of the COG’s ten workshops. They conducted door-to-door outreach, tabled at events, spoke at classes and church meetings. All told, they issued personal invitations to an estimated 2000 people!

Another group, Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries, Inc. (FIRM), led a workshop packed with over 35 people, including youth and many monolingual Hmong elders. The primary powerpoint was in Hmong, with English translation on a second screen. The workshop opened with participants’ stories about how different transportation was in Laos, where many had been farmers who walked 2-3 hours to their land every morning and a full day’s journey to reach stores.

ValleyLEAP and their affiliate Comité ALMA, hosted over 30 mostly low-income monolingual Spanish speakers at a workshop in Huron. The full list of workshop locations and hosts is here. And if you missed a meeting, you can still view the presentations and take the survey yourself.

At these workshops, community members’ priorities came through loud and clear. In the FIRM-hosted meeting, for instance, the audience voted on transportation investment preferences: road repair was the top choice, followed by transit and a tie between bicycle lanes and sidewalks.

These meetings succeeded in part because the organizations worked to find translators who were not only linguistically but culturally skilled. Thus, the facilitators chosen were more than just translators but bilingual community leaders, who themselves encouraged people to attend and make their voices heard.

The discussion at these workshops were still introductory, designed to inform community members and discuss general questions. In August, FresnoCOG will hold another round of workshops to get feedback on their particular scenarios.

As other COGs begin planning for their own public workshops, this partnership provides a great model to emulate. If local leaders host it, community members will come!


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