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Facilitate Internal and External Communication and Outreach

Encourage Internal Communication

In addition to advancing more sustainable practices, INVEST can also be a powerful mechanism to encourage internal communication within agencies. When staff from different departments within an agency collaborate to evaluate a project using INVEST, this opens lines of communication that will likely carry over into other aspects of an agency’s work. Many agencies that have used INVEST see it as a tool to initiate conversations between agency divisions and departments as a way to encourage the breakdown of “silos”. Many agencies convened individuals from various divisions or levels to complete the INVEST evaluation, because not only did their INVEST teams recognize that various divisions overlap in planning, programming, and project development, but that they also needed subject matter experts from a variety of fields to assist in scoring. Oftentimes cross-collaboration, such as that inspired by using INVEST, can help these individuals learn from one another to make the scoring a cross-discipline learning process, as well as a more effective one.

Washington State DOT Example

Numerous agencies have experienced success in facilitating internal communication within their agencies as a product of using INVEST. Washington DOT (WSDOT) involved approximately 30 people in the scoring of their SR 520 Project using the PD module. Scoring of each criterion involved personnel from different internal divisions, including the Urban Planning Office, the Public Transportation Division (multimodal focus), and the Community Transportation Planning Office, as well as coordination with consultants and state employees. Using INVEST for these evaluations allowed WSDOT to collaborate with subject matter experts—in transit operations, climate change, policy, emergency management, and bridge programs. The experts reviewed WSDOT’s planning practices, identified best practices from their perspective, and examined the INVEST tool criteria to help score the evaluation. INVEST also helped to spur discussion in individual project disciplines and leader to a larger conversation about what sustainability means to the agency as a whole. 

Arizona DOT Example

Arizona DOT (ADOT) also had success in improving internal communication while using INVEST. The agency brought together project managers with designers, planners, and engineers for internal scoring workshops. In general, senior project managers and designers seldom interact and have different vantages in terms of work and scope, even within the same agency. For the ADOT internal scoring workshops, each project manager partnered with a designer, planner, or engineer with an analyst perspective in order to score a project, which was an effective method to facilitate conversation across divisions within the agency. This method also allowed both parties to gather a new perspective of the plan, project, or program being evaluated and consider strategic methods outside of their normal spheres for achieving higher scores in the future.

Facilitate External Communication

While INVEST can be extraordinarily beneficial in encouraging internal communication, it can also be quite helpful in facilitating communications with partner agencies, municipalities, political organizations, and other stakeholders. Through its criteria, INVEST encourages users to work more closely with outside agencies to coordinate and advance sustainability efforts.

Arizona DOT Example

ADOT found the SP module to be an effective tool for facilitating partnerships with local governments.  The agency conducted INVEST workshops with local agencies, such as the city of Sedona, to improve sustainability outcomes and communication, especially where state highway actions directly impact local governments and vice versa. 

Cape Cod MPO Example

INVEST inherently has the potential to increase public relations opportunities (such as conversations with stakeholder and municipal partners) that help to promote an agency’s use of INVEST. For example, in Massachusetts, the Cape Cod Commission (CCC), a regional planning agency, used the PD module, and as a result the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) reached out to the CCC to discuss their use of the tool. MassDOT met with the CCC prior to using INVEST in order to discuss the CCC’s experience and identify areas for potential collaboration, which increased the tool’s effectiveness at both the regional and state levels.

Springfield MPO Example

The MPO for Springfield, IL, Springfield Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission (SSPC), also used INVEST to improve communication with external stakeholders. The SSPC applied criteria from the PD module to a corridor improvement project along the Peoria Road / Route 66 Corridor. The MPO held a workshop with stakeholder agencies in the region, including city officials and the state DOT. Planners explained how the INVEST tool measures sustainability and how it could be applied to the corridor project. They showed visuals of each of the key criteria analyzed, outlining very clearly the requirements for receiving points, and showing where improvements could be made at specific locations along the corridor. Planners also showed before and after visuals with photographs depicting the corridor’s current status, and mock-ups depicting its appearance after installation of the sustainability improvements suggested by the INVEST criteria. One of the key outcomes of using INVEST to score the corridor project was that it raised interest among Springfield stakeholders in implementing sustainability practices.

Demonstrate a Commitment to Sustainability and Self-Improvement

INVEST can be a vital tool for helping public relations and outreach and soliciting pertinent and necessary feedback from community stakeholders. INVEST can also be helpful in explaining sustainability concepts to the general public and getting community support for a particular project, plan, or program.

Ohio DOT Example

The INVEST application benefited Ohio DOT District 12 from a public relations perspective. The Cleveland Innerbelt Bridge Project website features a “Sustainability Initiatives” page that tracks progress toward sustainability goals and highlights recognitions that the project received. Using INVEST for the bridge project gave Ohio DOT the ability to celebrate their daily environmental and economic business practices and demonstrate the effective use of tax dollars to decision-makers and their constituents.

Kittery MPO Example

The Kittery Area Comprehensive Transportation System (KACTS) MPO in southern Maine used INVEST to help show their commitment to continual self-improvement as they strive to improve the sustainability of their planning efforts over time. KACTS used INVEST to score their 2010 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) and used the results to inform the creation of the 2014 LRTP. The LRTP working group recognized that the updated plan should be more informative and useful for the public to more clearly illustrate their practices, partnerships, policies, and programs that relate to sustainability. The change in content from the 2010 to the 2014 LRTP and this iterative process showed their stakeholders that they were committed to self-improvement and led to a considerable increase in points scored.


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