Public Engagement Guide

In Summer 2018, Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning invited applicants to participate in a Public Engagement Working Group, a group of approximately 40 members of the Pittsburgh community, intended to review and renew the approach to public participation in the City’s long-range planning process. The key focus of the group’s work will be to contribute to the Public Engagement Strategy for the City’s Comprehensive Plan initiative. Engagement is key to the next phase of completing the Comprehensive Plan, which, in coordination with major planning initiatives including the ONEPGH Resilience Strategy and the People, Planet, Place, and Performance (p4) Principles, and building on public engagement and guidance, will shape policy and practice for the city’s sustainable growth to 2030 and beyond.

The Public Engagement Strategy will outline the framework for how the City conducts engagement efforts throughout the next phases of the Comprehensive Planning process, and will also establish guidelines for improving the approach to engagement more broadly. This will require engaging a broad range of constituencies in the community, including those not historically engaged throughout this process. This Public Engagement Working Group will build on a multitude of efforts by the City and Civic sector to improve public engagement, including the Deliberative Democracy approach, neighborhood planning, and equity and sustainability initiatives, which have worked to encourage and achieve active participation across a broad and diverse cross section of the Pittsburgh community.

The Public Engagement Working Group’s tasks include: reviewing engagement tools as well as national best practices, and looking at specific avenues for improvement, from public hearings to workshops and training. This work will draw both on experience developed in Pittsburgh, as well as from recent approaches across the US that set a paradigm. To see some of the examples we’ve been reviewing and to read about best practices in public engagement, check out “Examples/Readings on Public Engagement”, which will continue to be updated periodically throughout this process.

The City will work with the Public Engagement Working Group to establish the framework and principles for the Public Engagement Strategy, learning from local practices and emerging paradigms for engagement. The Public Engagement Strategy process will include three key meetings and one public panel that focuses on best practices and innovation for public engagement.

Working Group members will attend four events, including a Panel on Public Engagement and four Working Group meetings occurring on the following dates:

  1. Public Engagement Panel
  2. PEWG Meeting #1: Wednesday, October 10, 2018
  3. PEWG Meeting #2: Wednesday, November 7, 2018
  4. PEWG Meeting #3: Wednesday, December 5, 2018 
  5. PEWG Meeting #4: Wednesday, January 30, 2019 

In creating the Public Engagement Working Group, the Department of City Planning focused efforts on inviting and selecting a diverse and broad range of experts in public engagement. Those invited include individuals representing local universities, city government, Pittsburgh Public Schools, faith-based, non-profit and community organizations. Invited individuals were also asked to fill out an “Open Call” application. The “Open Call” application was live for approximately two weeks, and was advertised on the City’s Office of Community Affairs Facebook and Twitter, on the City’s NextDoor account, on the Department of City Planning Facebook and Twitter, in every Carnegie Library within city limits, and at a number of coffee shops and museums around the Pittsburgh. Additionally, City Planning staff distributed information about the Working Group to the community groups they work with and asked them to share that information. When the application closed, the Department of City Planning received approximately 70 applicants, from which 36 individuals were selected based off the criteria listed below. During this process we pushed to not only have a diverse representation of city residents, with at least two individuals represented from each of the nine Council Districts, but to also have the following types of representation:

  • Ethnic and racial background
  • Residential location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Experience in public engagement

Please see the full listing of the Public Engagement Working Group members below:

Public Engagement Working Group

Karen Abrams Heinz Endowments
Zeba Ahmed Fineview & Perry Hilltop Citizen's Council
Karen Brean Brean Associates
Rashod X. Brown Arlington Resident, Garden of Peace Project
Brian Burley Young Black PGH
Geoff Campbell Greenfield Community Association
Rachel Canning Perry South Resident
Itha Cao Mayor's Asian American Advisory Council Representative
Robert Cavalier Deliberative Democracy Forum - CMU
Keyva Clark Mayor's LGBTQIA+ Advisory Council Representative
Patrick Clark Jackson/Clark Partners
Phyllis Comer Crafton Heights Resident, HOPE Project
Kristen Compitello Crafton Heights Resident, PHLF, CDC
Martell Covington Lincoln-Lemington Resident, Community Empowerment Association, Homewood Community Sports
Tim Dawson Deliberative Democracy Forum - CMU
Krista DiPietro Hazelwood Initiative, Resident
Whitney French Allegheny Center Resident
William Generett Duquesne University
Carol Hardeman Upper Hill Resident, Bedford Hill Choice Neighborhood Board
Christina Howell Bloomfield Development Corporation
Shannon Hughes Lower Lawrenceville Resident, PA Health & Wellness
Donna Jackson Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar Resident, Larimer Consensus Group
Ron Jardini Carrick Resident, Civic Leadership Academy alum
Shenay Jeffrey Urban League Young Professionals
Natalie Jellison Brookline Resident
C. Denise Johnson Crawford-Roberts Resident
Joshua Kivuva Stanton Heights Resident, PhD in engagement for democracy
Kevin McNair 1Nation Mentoring
Christine Mondor Pittsburgh Planning Commission
Aweys Mwaliya Somali Bantu Community Association of Pittsburgh
Grace Oxley Highland Park Resident, Homewood Children's Village
Chase Patterson Urban Academy of Greater Pittsburgh
Renee Robinson Garfield Resident, Carnegie Library Engagement Coordinator
Sarah Steers Brighton Heights Resident, disability community
Andrew Van Treeck Jewish Family & Children Services
Guillermo Velasquez Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation


Sophia Robison
Project Manager
Department of City Planning