Terica Black Bashir
Project Manager for the Mayor’s Office of Innovation Delivery & Performance, City of Atlanta
Many municipalities are looking for more efficient, innovative and effective ways to engage with their constituents, especially ones that are harder to reach and underrepresented. Local governments have traditionally relied on a top down approach to engagement, which does not yield the transparency, inclusivity and collaboration needed to facilitate constructive cooperation. True engagement is done in partnership with constituents and communities to help a city reach its full potential -- one that is vibrant, clean and safe.
Atlanta is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country with increasing numbers of new residents, unprecedented development and sweeping changes occurring throughout many neighborhoods. The City of Atlanta has a responsibility to understand the unique needs of its communities and build sustainable partnerships with high levels of engagement to continue the progress being made. Terica Black Bashir, of the Mayor’s Office of Innovation & Performance, has taken a unique approach to the City’s commitment to engaging residents, businesses and organizations in constructive, collaborative, holistic and creative ways.
Bashir has built upon her past experiences to discover her passion of working with communities to foster the strong relationships that are critical for sustainable collaboration between governments and residents; it’s what led her to a position in city government. A native of Memphis, Tenn., Bashir began her career in the private sector and then moved to the nonprofit sector, with the goal of helping individuals in need. After a few years spent working on a variety of issues, including social justice, environmental reform and human rights violations, Bashir was recruited to work in local government where she could channel her passion into municipal programs. She knew the City of Atlanta would prove to be a great fit, given its history of neighborhood-led organizing from the civil rights movement that has carried through to the present day.
Bashir currently works on projects that often involve improving the effectiveness and efficiency of multiple City departments. Her office leads the development of creative approaches to delivering results on projects that address the administration’s top priorities. One of Bashir’s largest projects was creating and leading a diverse stakeholder working group -- comprising representatives from nonprofits, community groups and various agencies -- to develop actionable steps and strategies to achieve greater levels of quality engagement. Over an 18-month community-led research and design process, this group created a set of guiding principles and concrete plays now documented in the Atlanta Community Engagement Playbook.
The Playbook and subsequent pocket version brochure, co-designed as part of a very collaborative process, serve as a working resource to support community leadership and participation in the engagement processes. The plays, checklists, action guides and templates found in the Playbook are designed for those with a shared interest in building successful engagement strategies and higher levels of community engagement. This Playbook is essentially two separate resources -- one for service providers and one for community associations -- with “plays” that complement and build on one another.
To ensure this collaborative standard is embedded in the City’s operating procedures when it comes to community engagement, members of the stakeholder working group are currently on a “Playbook Tour.” Bashir is presenting the Playbook to all City departments, including public safety departments, as well as partner agencies, to train them on the new inclusive plays. To widely distribute the Playbook to the community, members of the stakeholder group also attend community events and neighborhood meetings, and have established distribution sites around the city to share the strategies on a broad scale.
“Bashir not only has passion and drive for the work she does, but she has a natural ability to connect with people,” said Matt Malament, Director of the Office of Innovation and Performance. “This skill is invaluable in relationship-building and in creating a dialogue that can benefit both the City and its communities long-term.”
Civic engagement is more important than ever, and Atlanta is leading the way in facilitating genuine, constructive engagement and mobilizing community-led development and change. Higher levels of engagement mean that residents own and take leadership of civic change, rather than just observing or being asked to provide feedback. It is Bashir’s and her team’s hope that the work done in Atlanta will help strengthen community associations and make sure service providers are following through on their commitments to make meaningful local engagement a priority.
Bashir holds a degree in English from Agnes Scott College. She has over 15 years of experience in public speaking and facilitation, and she is certified in conflict resolution and negotiation.
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