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Environmental Justice Primer for Ports Good Neighbor Roadmap: Step 1. Assess your Community Engagement Approach

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This step focuses on assessing your agency’s community engagement philosophy, goals, policies, plans and relationships with stakeholders. This is an opportunity to evaluate how your agency’s policy framework can reflect a commitment to engage near-ports communities and strive for solutions that improve their quality of life. In some cases, ports may be examining the extent to which a port’s mission statement, core values and goals reflect a commitment to social responsibility, community engagement and impact mitigation for the first time.

Ideally, a port’s community engagement commitment can be made organization-wide. It can also be accomplished at the department level, by guiding the work of a social responsibility or community outreach department.

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Try It Out! Assess Your Community Engagement Policy

The questions below provide an opportunity to reflect on your port’s current community engagement policy and to determine if there are gaps in the policies or areas that could use further focus and refinement.
Questions Potential Gaps Areas for Further Refinement
Does your port have a mission statement with specific goals and decision-making criteria focused on community engagement and impact mitigation?    
Does your port have a community engagement policy describing how to consider potential community impacts? Are there nearby tribes that may be impacted?    
Have you assessed which department decisions have the highest potential impact on nearby communities?    
Does the port have a method for evaluating project-specific and cumulative community impacts? Is there a method for determining how to maximize potential benefits and mitigate harmful impacts when making planning and operational decisions?    
Has your port identified community engagement goals and outcomes to guide decision-making? Are these applied consistently across departments?    
What metrics are used to evaluate community engagement outcomes?    
Is there a mechanism to coordinate community engagement across departments and agencies? Are there gaps that need to be addressed?    
Does your port participate in the region’s metropolitan planning organization and incorporate projects and plans into the communities’ broader vision for the regional transportation system?    

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Try It Out! Draft a Social Responsibility Mission

Review the mission statement examples that include a social responsibility commitment, then draft a sample mission statement that reflects engagement and social equity in near-port communities and nearby tribes.

“The Port of Bellingham’s mission is to fulfill the essential transportation and economic development needs of the region while providing leadership in maintaining greater Whatcom County’s overall economic vitality through the development of comprehensive facilities, programs, and services.”   Port of Bellingham

“The Port of Houston Authority facilitates commerce, navigation, and safe waterways promoting sustainable trade and generating economic development...while being a model environmental and security steward, and a community-focused and fiscally responsible organization.”  — Port of Houston

“The Social Responsibility Division aims to facilitate inclusion, fairness, equity, as well as access to economic opportunities, programs, and services of the port for the people and businesses in the port community.”  — Port of Oakland

Digging Deeper Exercise

For your port, review the International Assocation for Public Participation (IAP2) levels of engagement examples outlined in Table 2 and then explore the following questions:

  • What engagement methods has the port used in the past that were successful? Which methods were less successful? Why?
  • What expectations does the near-port community have about engagement in the decision-making process?
  • What are the port’s expectations?
  • Was there a recent decision where the community expected a much greater level of engagement?
  • Is there an upcoming decision where the port might increase the level of engagement of near-port communities?

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