Let’s have a conversation (or 647)

City of Charlotte
Feb 1, 2018 · 5 min read

By Sabrina Colón, Charlotte Communications & Marketing

CharMeck 311 Take10 Round2 Ambassador Shenique Bethea

Following the success of the city’s Take10 CLT initiative, which put a face to government by challenging city employees to have one-on-one conversations with residents, the city initiated Take10 Round2 in April 2017. This time around, the city raised the stakes with a more aggressive goal, a larger base of participants and targeted questions to better understand what issues matter most to our residents.

The engagement initiative sought responses to the contents of City Council’s community letter, and in particular, three key areas: safety, trust and accountability; access to safe, quality, and affordable housing; and good paying jobs, as well as other ideas of how to make Charlotte a better place to live, work and do business for all people. This second phase expanded on the first phase by incorporating CharMeck 311 Ambassadors, Civic Leadership Academy participants and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Youth Council, in addition to city employees from across the organization.

This is the largest single engagement effort the city has undertaken, resulting in 7,940 conversations over five months. Every district was represented, reaching one in 100 Charlotte residents.

Enlisting the help of CharMeck 311 was a major component to reaching more residents. CharMeck 311 Ambassador Shenique Bethea took this role to heart, having the most conversations of any participant at 647, surpassing all goals set.

After one chat with Bethea, it is easy to see how she was able to have so many conversations. Bethea’s positive attitude and inviting personality makes her easy to open up to and her honest understanding of the issues affecting many Charlotte residents gives her genuine empathy for the people sharing their concerns.

“I never approached anyone as though I was taking a survey of their opinion,” says Bethea. “I tried to only have real conversations. And I genuinely did want to hear what they had to say. People may have been skeptical at first, but usually opened up once they saw that I was interested in their thoughts. They even started calling over their friends to also have conversations.”

Bethea enjoyed the phone conversations so much she requested to utilize 311’s community engagement tabling events as an opportunity for face-to-face conversations in addition to those she continued to have on her own time. Bethea’s conversations took place everywhere from her 311 calls to the Cotswold Farmers Market to the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte where she also works and everywhere in between.

Though she enjoyed the experience, the conversations were not always easy. Topics around safety, jobs, housing and economic mobility are tough issues and that greatly affect many member of our community.

“I talked to everyone from those who have a lot to people who are experiencing homelessness,” says Bethea. “Almost everyone, regardless of their appearance or situation, just wants an opportunity to do better for themselves.”

This was also a chance to not only help residents with their reason for calling, but also connect them to other resources. Ambassadors were able to connect residents to community resources and non-profits, provide volunteer opportunities through the United Way, invite residents to upcoming City of Charlotte public meetings to share their opinions on key issues and add residents to emails lists to receive Community Letter information and to the Housing & Neighborhood Services database.

Bethea also knows that sometimes the conversations themselves help other people.

“I always tell my sons, it is easy to give from a place of what you have. The real test is to give from a place of where you don’t. Sometimes that can even be your time to listen.”

So, what’s next?

The Take 10 project team is now seeking more ways to engage our 311 Ambassadors to give and receive targeted information as well as exploring how to leverage the engagement infrastructure to support our work with Government Alliance on Race & Equity.

Thanks to the Knight Foundation, who provided grant funding for Take10, Charlotte is working with New York City Public Engagement Unit (PEU) to do a learning exchange on how to incorporate tools and techniques for effective outreach. Because the NYC PEU’s focus is on identifying how to reach thousands of vulnerable disconnected residents directly, provide services and save the city resources, this learning exchange has the potential to bring our work to the next level. The PEU will be in Charlotte at the end of March to share their work and learn about our city’s current innovative engagement efforts.

After sharing the summaries of the conversations across the organization and with decision makers, one thing is clear, what started out as an initiative has turned into a way of doing work. There’s a focus on sharing, listening and tapping into the skills and passion of our city employees.

What we heard from the community

Top Conversationalists

Shenique Bethea (311), 647

Marlene McNair (311), 549

Zekia Young (311), 544

Casey Allison (311), 534

Mariangelica Montoya (311), 395

Cheryl Lyon-Justice (311), 274

Mary Lewis (311), 261

Pamela Olzewski (311), 260

Robin Bacote (311), 253

William Friend (311), 232

Serina Heller (311), 207

Schleace Fields (311), 195

Fernando Onativia (311), 175

Alonna Bailey (311), 173

Lucy Brown (311), 134

Julian Campbell (311), 119

Anita Blakeney (311), 108

Denisse Elsevyf (311), 104

Chris Mumm (311), 89

Andrea Graham (311), 85

Bernice Mar (CLA), 81

Dee Camm (311), 79

Tracy Garrett (311), 79

Barbara Epps (Take 10), 78

Hope Robinson (311), 75

Brian Kelly (311), 65

Shirahba Rasheed (Take 10), 62

Michelle Rosario-Long (311), 58

Roger Giangrande (311), 58

Rubi Tinajero (311), 55

Tia Jeffrey (311), 55

Lori Garlitos (Take 10), 46

Marjorie Jackson (Take 10), 44

Ruth Perez (CLA), 42

Doris Borders (Take 10), 40

Glencie Rhedrick (CLA), 39

Alina Dorofeeva (Take 10), 35

Eldewins Haynes (Take 10), 35

Menderes Erdogan ‘Dre’ (311), 33

Decinta Artis (311), 32

Jackie Meaders (311), 32

Eric Lewis (Take 10), 31

Jamie Murray (Take 10), 31

Shavon Davis (311), 31

Jasmine Jackson (311), 30

Judy Dellert-O’Keef (Take 10), 30

Dawn Robbins (311), 28

Kimberly Byrd (Take 10), 27

Lanette Harrison (311), 27

Tonya Harden (311), 27

Nikkia Jackson (311), 26

Kara English (Take 10), 25

Patricia Banega (YC), 25

Britnee Adams (Take 10), 24

Emileth Valverde (311), 24

Ola Mitchell (CLA), 24

Anthony Mendez (Take 10), 22

Denise Coleman (Take 10), 22

Leai Ho (Take 10), 22

Ryan Emmanuel (Take 10), 22

Sherry Bauer (Take 10), 22

Alyssa Dodd (Take 10), 21

Sam Smith (Take 10), 21

Steven Bolt (Take 10), 21

Chris Davis (Take 10), 20

Jackie Bray (Take 10), 20

Katherine Osborne (Take 10), 20

Kecia Balose (Take 10), 20

Lynn Alexander (Take 10), 20

Mary Gaertner (Take 10), 20

Mary Isom-Chappell (Take 10), 20

Meg Gibson (Take 10), 20

Monique Prather-Foster (Take 10), 20

Richelle Mechenbier (Take 10), 20

Scott Monti (Take 10), 20

Stacey Cormier (Take 10), 20

Terra Neal (Take 10), 20

Charlotte city government’s playlist

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