This week, I made the following motion at a TNRD board of directors meeting:
“That the Chair appoint an ad hoc committee including two Electoral Area Directors, two Small Community Directors and one City of Kamloops Director, and that the CAO assign staff members to the committee as he may deem appropriate, to report to the Board within six months with recommendations on ways and means, and potential costs, to enhance service to, and communication and engagement with, the public.”
Regional districts are the unsung level of local government in B.C. The TNRD, for example, provides some 120 different services to people within the region, yet I’ve found that there’s a lack of awareness about what it does.
The more that people know about the TNRD, and the more that residents feel connected to it, the easier it is for them to let the TNRD know what they need, and the better the job that can be done for them by regional government.
As Director Ronaye Elliott said in debate on my motion, some people view the TNRD in the light of what it does “to” them rather than “for” them. That’s because some people’s only experience with regional government has to do with an enforcement issue of some kind.
Rules and regulations (for things such as noisy dogs, unsightly premises and building codes) are necessary, but the TNRD provides a lot of basic services for people — it operates several water systems (including in Area P), sewer systems, funds community halls and local events, establishes fire services, carries out planning, operates libraries and landfills and more.
In recent years, the TNRD has enhanced its communication efforts with an improved website and regular newsletters and bulletins. I think we could benefit from continuing down that path and looking at our communications strategy and an engagement plan, and ways to formalize a customer-first approach.
“Engagement” has become a popular term for governments creating a two-way dialogue with the public. It’s a step beyond communication, which can be a one-way street.
There are a lot of good ideas out there — the TNRD has great staff, and each director has his or her own ways of engaging with the people they serve. And I know other regional districts have identified the same issue, and are trying to come up with their own ways of dealing with it.
While there was a lot of support from other board members for the idea of discussing the issue, my motion to form an ad hoc committee was narrowly defeated because most felt the place to start the discussion should be within a strategic planning session.
Fortunately, we have a two-day strategic planning session at the end of the month, and directors agreed to put the engagement/service topic on that agenda. I’m pleased about that because it will provide a forum to talk in broad strokes about it and, hopefully, create consensus on a direction.
I’ll write more about this topic over the next while and explore some ideas about it.