Boulder's Community Connectors Program Builds Trust with Underrepresented Communities
City of Boulder
Boulder’s Community Connectors program appoints trusted neighborhood leaders to strengthen the relationship between the city and the community. Community Connectors are involved in a variety of different programs, resulting in relationship building within communities and faster dissemination of information.
General Fund/Existing Public Funds
Operational since 2022
Community Engagement Director
Boulder residents in communities of color or low income communities have a history of distrust with city officials.
Residents from low income communities or communities of color were not seeing action on feedback they consistently gave to city officials to help improve their communities. Residents started to feel overlooked, not heard, and that their engagement efforts were a waste of time. Community engagement rates started to decrease within these communities as a result.
The City of Boulder recognized the need to rebuild trust between city government and the residents it serves. The city looked to create a community engagement program that would amplify voices within affected communities, educate community members, center lived experience, and document concerns and issues raised by community members. The program would also need to provide multiple opportunities for involvement on a variety of city projects and programs affecting residents in low income communities or communities of color.
Boulder established the Community Connectors Program to elevate underrepresented voices and build trust between community members and city government.
In order to develop the program, the city co-designed the engagement process with the Community Connectors themselves. It was essential that the Connectors felt heard and useful to the project from the start, especially given the barrier of distrust between residents from underrepresented communities and the city. The city turned to community based organizations and groups to help identify community leaders. This collaboration helped identify trusted natural leaders within their communities who already had tools in place to engage with residents and other stakeholders.
Community Connector candidates are bilingual, bring lived experience as part of an underrepresented community, and are natural relationship builders with community members of diverse backgrounds. As community members, the Community Connectors partner with the city to co-design engagement opportunities, share resources and avenues to participate in city decision-making, and surface arising issues or community concerns. Community Connectors receive a stipend for their commitment, time and expertise.
Community Connectors are involved in a variety of different capacities and programs. This has resulted in relationship building within the communities and a faster dissemination of information, especially in emergency situations. For instance, during COVID-19, the city launched an Emergency Response Connectors program to equitably distribute trusted information to residents in underrepresented communities.
The program not only strengthens ties within communities, but also provides the city with valuable information about underrepresented communities that they previously did not have. In March 2022, Boulder experienced forest fires, and the city was able to get on the ground information about the communities affected before they regularly would have.
Each project assigns different Community Connectors who have a stake in the community at-hand and are trusted voices within the affected community. Community Connectors can contribute to different kinds of programs, like:
- Comprehensive Flood and Stormwater Master Plan Update
- Parks & Recreation Master Plan Update
- Recovery Equity Connectors
- Community Connectors-in-Residence
Boulder currently has 33 Connectors involved in a variety of programs, including comprehensive stormwater, parks & recreations master plan updates, recovery equity, and emergency response.
The Community Connectors program ensures that input from residents in underrepresented communities is incorporated into the city's various capacities and programs.
Community Connectors are trusted, already-established natural leaders within their communities whose role it is to act as a bridge between underrepresented communities and the city.
City staff heavily relied on outreach and nomination support from community organizations to identify well-qualified candidates who are trusted leaders in their communities.
Who Should Consider
Cities who are looking to rebuild trust between underrepresented communities and the city government, and ensure their input is reflected in city planning decisions.
Government Project Team
- Ryan Hanschen, Community Engagement Managaer
Last UpdatedJul 21st, 2022
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