All images via The Great Exchange.
A major suburban county in the Atlanta metro region, Gwinnett County boasts a population of around 900,000 people, spread out over a vast area. As is typical in the suburban United States, cars are the dominant form of transportation in Gwinnett, and other options for getting around are limited. Long commutes and heavy traffic are a daily standard for some residents, leaving many wishing for alternatives.
In summer of 2015, the Gwinnett Village and Gwinnett Place Community Improvement Districts (CIDs) collaborated with area leaders to host a widespread dialogue on the future of transportation in the region, titled “The Great Exchange on Transportation.” They enlisted the help of design/strategy collaborative Aha! Strategy to design a massive outreach campaign, with a Textizen survey at its center.
Somewhat unusually, the effort was not designed to inform a specific project or proposal, but to get the entire community to paint a vision of the future of Gwinnett County. It was one of the most ambitious outreach efforts the region has seen, and resulted in tens of thousands of conversations, 1,400 web survey responses, and over 2,700 text survey responses in one week.
“The Great Exchange was a non-agenda driven initiative to get people to take a step back, provide broad feedback, and build the framework for a future transportation plan. We used this as an opportunity to let the people be aspirational, and it exceeded all of our expectations.”
-Chuck Warbington, Executive Director, Gwinnett Village CID
Cascading Outreach for Maximum Engagement
The Great Exchange achieved such enormous reach by using a cascading outreach structure. Leading up to the main outreach period, the organizers recruited community leaders to host events and discuss transportation. These community leaders then recruited “team captains” from among their social circles, to help coordinate events and bring more community members into the conversation.
By the time the official survey period began on August 24, everything was in place for a huge burst of engagement. Leaders and team captains distributed pledge cards at events and throughout their day-to-day lives, inviting others to participate in The Great Exchange text-in survey and take a pledge to have 5 conversations about transportation with friends, family, or coworkers.
Meanwhile, Great Exchange organizers promoted the project heavily through social media and offline venues, including public meetings, handouts, and even billboards overlooking busy highways.
Looking Forward: A More Progressive Gwinnett
With the outreach period over and a total of over 4,100 survey responses collected, the Gwinnett Village and Gwinnett Place CIDs spent the end of summer analyzing the survey data. Organizers are now finalizing a report based on the responses, due for release at the end of October. In the meantime, you can view the raw survey results here.
The organizers hope that The Great Exchange will be an important first step in plotting the course to a better future.
“This project isn’t just for transit, but to help usher Gwinnett into the 21st century, with walkable communities and livable activity centers. This will pave the way for a more progressive Gwinnett. It’s the first time our community has done anything like this, and leaders in the region as well as at the state level have taken note.”
Chuck Warbington, Executive Director, Gwinnett Village CID