By Carolina Arango, City of Surrey
During my recent participation at MFI (Municipal Forestry Institute), we were instructed to come up with a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) with our peer learning groups. In my group, we identified right away that getting the public to know what Urban Forestry is, is in itself, an enormous challenge. It was very interesting to have consensus from participants from many different places in North America.
As a reader of this article, you are probably very familiar and involved with the concept. But if we want to move forward as an industry, and have more support, we need to implement strategies to create more awareness and have more buy in from the public. How do we get there? I strongly believe the answer is in targeted communication. We have to find ways to reach out to those who have not listened yet.
As a group at MFI, we discussed how when we have events, many people come and volunteers show up. But these attendees are already Urban Forestry allies. It is those who did not come to the event, who we need to reach out to. So which are these groups? The first step is to identify them.
The second step became very clear to me when the MFI Cadre mentioned how it is important to establish a relationship with a community or group leader, so as to learn how different groups listen and thus be able to target our approach. Cultural differences can be a barrier, but if we listen to people within that group we can learn to approach them in a way that our message can be heard.
When I returned from MFI, I brought many ideas with me and have slowly started to share them with my team at the City of Surrey, Trees and Landscape Section. This one resonated with them and we immediately started to think on how we will find new friends in the community who will help us deliver our Urban Forestry message. We do not have a solid plan yet, but the seed has been planted and we are motivated to act on it.
The communication strategy will not be easy or fast, and most importantly it will not be stagnant. It must be a continuing effort so as to create momentum and increase awareness effectively. Success will be measured in terms of increase participation and feedback from those areas in the community we want to reach. As an industry in search for more awareness and acknowledgement, working together in achieving a common goal, we must share stories of success so that the targeted communication strategy can be a national achievement.