Representatives from seven neighborhoods in north and south Arlington. Strong commitment to community engagement. Fluency in four languages. Diverse facilitation skill sets. And a passion for Arlington County.
The Neighborhood College graduates selected as neutral facilitators for the County’s recently launched Arlington Engagement Brigade (AEB) bring a wealth of experience and expertise that will help expand the County’s public engagement landscape.
The seven members — Tania Bougebrayel, Minneh Kane, Rafael Sampayo, Kitty Clark Stevenson, Alyson Jordan Tomaszewski, Thao Tran, and Tandra Turner — were selected from a range of applications submitted during last year’s recruitment process.
“This team will help us pilot an innovative program for Arlington County that will be one of the first of its kind in the country,” said Roger Munter, Arlington County’s Director of Public Engagement. “The AEB will focus on our larger engagement initiatives, specifically those where a neutral presence will add value to the process and increase community trust.”
Establishing a cohort of neutral facilitators for community engagement on County projects and initiatives is a key objective in Arlington’s Public Engagement Action Plan. The plan was developed in December 2017 with input from the community, and the desire for neutral facilitators emerged as a top priority for participants.
While it was developing the AEB framework, Arlington County saw firsthand the benefits neutral facilitators can bring to community conversations. In June, the Arlington County Board leveraged commission chairs to facilitate the Big Idea Roundtables, and in the fall the County’s Communications and Public Engagement (CAPE) team began collaborating with graduate students from George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution to help lead small group discussions during select public meetings.
“In both experiences, the neutral facilitators were seen as conversation leaders, and were able to conduct effective, dynamic conversations where the participants had a chance to talk to each other directly on important topics,” Munter said.
To form the AEB, the County looked to recent Neighborhood College alumni. Neighborhood College is a free civic leadership development program for people who live and work in Arlington — with alumni committing to volunteer a significant number of hours in Arlington County after they graduate. All alumni were invited to apply.
In the coming months, the AEB will come together for team building and skills enhancement sessions, and the members will partner with County staff to work on upcoming engagement opportunities.
To learn more about public engagement in Arlington, go to topics.arlingtonva.us/engage/.