As the largest school board in Western Canada and second largest employer in Calgary, the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) has a large and diverse stakeholder community with more than 14,000 employees and 125,000 students. Additionally, as a publicly-funded organization, all Calgarians and Albertans have an interest in the decisions the CBE makes.
In 2016, the CBE launched the Dialogue Framework, the CBE’s approach to community engagement. Since its introduction, the Dialogue Framework has been the foundation for a number of engagements including transportation, impacted schools, French Immersion programming, high schools and a number school-specific engagements.
The framework includes a commitment to enhance the consistency of community engagement across the CBE, including all schools and service units that support student learning and ongoing operations. The work to support consistency across the system has included leadership development sessions related to community and employee engagement, creating engagement toolkits and other resources. It has also included partnering with Zencity Engage in 2019 to implement a system-wide online engagement experience—a platform that provides an intuitive authoring experience for a high volume of editors, and supports diverse voices, needs, and functions.
Creating Consistent Engagement Experiences
The CBE has large and diverse stakeholder groups with different levels of knowledge and understanding, a large number of staff with varied expertise who are required to engage with their unique stakeholder communities, and range of engagement levels and types. To accommodate the significant size and diversity of groups and needs, the CBE implemented Zencity Engage’s multi-tenant solution.
With a primary ‘engage’ project hub for system-level engagements and hundreds of school and service unit specific hubs for projects with more targeted stakeholder groups, the multi-tenant solution has given the CBE flexibility and consistency in a robust platform where participants can explore project information and engage across projects. It also provides the CBE with a central location to publish engagement results and share data with participants. In their own words, ‘closing the loop and sharing back what we’ve heard is something we take very seriously.’
Collaboration & Engagement from the Outset
Since implementing Zencity Engage, the CBE has hit the ground running, managing internal and public engagements for high schools, transportation services and providing training and support to Human Resources, Finance and schools to manage their own online engagement opportunities.
The CBE has opened three new high schools in recent years. These new school openings along with significant population growth in new suburban communities has created an imbalance in student enrollment across 20 CBE high schools which, in turn, can affect student access, flexibility and choice in programming and activities available to students. The CBE initiated ‘Shaping the Future of CBE High Schools’ in Spring 2019, a three-year engagement to gather thoughts and perspectives from staff, students and parents that will inform the development of a sustainable system-wide plan for high schools that continues to offer students access, flexibility and choice.
Continuing the ‘Shaping the Future of CBE High Schools’ project, the CBE launched public, student and staff online engagement opportunities in September 2019, recording over 2,700 responses. These online engagement opportunities ran concurrent with 12 in-person sessions over six weeks that gathered feedback from over 1,200 participants. Two additional phases of active engagement, including online engagement, are planned for 2020-21 to inform the final decisions.
In March 2020, the CBE launched a transportation survey for CBE students, staff, parents, and community members. The survey gathered feedback from stakeholders to help inform the development of a balanced transportation budget for 2020-21 and beyond that does not require the use of learning dollars to subsidize transportation services.
10,000% increase in parent participation compared to the previous year.
1,200% increase in schools that participated compared to the previous year.
10,000 The survey gathered an impressive 10,000 responses, with over 7,300 responses coming from parents and guardians of CBE students.
81% The survey also collected an 81% completion rate, and has now been closed and reported on back to the community.
True Engagement for the Long Haul
While the last year of engagements has given the CBE a wealth of meaningful insights and data, they have their sights firmly set on the big picture. Additional system-wide engagements on topics important to CBE stakeholders are in the planning stages. The CBE will also continue to actively report back to the community through a series of online conversations and surveys.
Alongside these powerful, long-term plans, the CBE community engagement team is diligently continuing to onboard schools and service units to ensure stakeholders receive consistent online engagement opportunities to provide input and feedback on decisions that affect them.
Partnering with Zencity Engage has been a game-changer for online engagement at the CBE. Zencity Engage has enabled us to engage in meaningful conversations with our stakeholders while offering participants a consistent and intuitive platform to share their perspectives on decisions that affect them.
Community Engagement Advisor, Calgary Board of Education