This presentation will share the methods, tools and techniques that the City of Dallas Environmental Quality and Sustainability (DEQS) Outreach and Engagement team created and used to continue their mission to enthusiastically empower Dallas to save the world during a pandemic.
To reach out to summer camps, the team created catalogs for recreation centers, day cares and home-schoolers to use to select virtual environmental topics for children. The sessions align with our focus areas and include a low-cost, low-waste children’s activity. The catalog was expanded to include stories for younger children to be more inclusive.
Before the pandemic, DEQS and the Dallas Public Library (DPL) Humanities coordinated an adult, environmental education summer series across multiple branch libraries covering our different environmental focus areas. When we could not meet in person, the DPL started DPL at Home to continue programming virtually. We were able to move our programs online with the moniker, Earth Day Every Day (EDED). Plus, we forged a new partnership with the Dallas Seed Library for another series called Grow with Us (GWU), focusing on urban agriculture and gardening.
The team had minimal experience with virtual learning. The DPL supplied the online platform and the technical assistance so our team could focus on the content and execution. DPL provided registration and, eventually, recordings of all the sessions. For three months, we had weekly, biweekly or even triweekly programming that delivered awareness, knowledge, skill and/or action. As the team’s confidence grew, so did the complexity of the sessions. Sessions went from a PowerPoint to including video, adding a hands-on activity, multiple presenters, multiple settings/locations and numerous activities.
Over time, we learned which topics were popular and how to freely market the sessions to increase registration. We learned to take advantage of every opportunity to reach our audience. We sent messages into the waiting room listing and linking upcoming programs, shared stormwater information, DEQS and LIB websites, services and contact information. To close the loop with our participants, we started offering thank you gifts to anyone attending the EDED sessions. To get to better know and understand our audience, we created a simple Zoom poll with the GWU series. This led to a short survey sent out with recording to gather satisfaction, topic ideas, marketing data and attendee locations.
The GWU series was the most popular and very relevant due to COVID-19. DPL extended it through the end of the calendar year, along with EDED. GWU features expert guest speakers and alternated from DIY to featuring local green or urban agriculture companies and nonprofits. EDED will use the same approach. The popularity of our sessions attracted the attention of groups and organizations that booked us for membership training or educational seminar ranging from serious to fun.
At this time, we’ve completed 22 sessions reaching a total of 1,000 people. This team is charged to meet 180 specific outreach mandates that are reported to federal and state agencies. It may be a long, long time before things return to normal, but if we deliver fun, engaging programming, we can continue to meet our responsibilities and drive behavior change.
We also established a Social Media series of posts and blogs. The first was 50 Days of Earth Day and environmental topics led the way. Again, these topics coordinated with our focus areas, but we also offered to include messages from other environmental teams from throughout City Hall. The posts began April 22 and continued until July 1. Earth Day was so different with everything getting canceled. The planet had spoken and celebrated in its own way, and we had to put on our work boots and follow suit or be left behind. We are striding right along and the results are encouraging.