Strengthening Civic Identity Through Improved Community Engagement
East Palo Alto is working to better engage with residents, including improved access to services and elected officials. FUSE Executive Fellow Jerry Chang developed new tools and practices, designed upgrades and long-term planning for facilities, and attracted new resources to create a spirit of collaboration and innovation within the city. When the pandemic exacerbated many of the hardships that residents were already facing around accessing city services, Jerry helped establish ways to engage with the community using digital platforms. To better understand community needs, Jerry launched an ongoing series of community explorations called Elevate EPA, engaging city and community leaders, residents, and resource partners. From these meetings, participants used new tools and practices to develop pilots that expand community access to resources and increase alignment between services and community needs. Jerry also launched a summer internship program for local youths, during which they worked on community challenges. During the COVID-19 crisis, Jerry helped establish virtual community meetings, including a mayoral town hall and public meetings for community and economic development, and he trained staff on how to engage using digital platforms. Jerry is now focused on developing enhanced community engagement strategies and facilitating participation in the civic process.