Atlantic City Economic Development Action Strategy Plan
City of Atlantic City
As part of the development of the Economic Development Action Plan of Atlantic City (NJ), Connect the Dots served as Community Engagement Lead to ensure the perspectives and needs of local community members were considered in the plan. Our team worked to analyze the local community landscape through a listening tour and quantitative insights from partners and then focused on the strategic design and facilitation of a set of inclusive virtual and in-person charrettes on Real Estate, Community Priorities on Quality of Life, and Jobs & Workforce Development. Connect the Dots then distilled insights and developed recommendations to inform the final deliverable, the Economic Development Action Plan, released in Spring 2023.
Purpose & Scope:
The goal of the Economic Development Action Plan is to enhance the quality of life for residents across Atlantic City as well as to sustain and diversify Atlantic City’s economy. Considering that quantitative analysis only captures one part of the community’s story, our role as Engagement Lead directly impacted the formation of the plan by providing qualitative data in the form of community ideas and feedback. Our scope for this project centered around the design and delivery of community engagement charrettes, called “Build Sessions” in this case, to enable the building of collaborative solutions by a cross-section of community leaders, business owners, and residents at large with vested interest in the future development of Atlantic City.
For the first phase of this project, our services focused on developing the project strategy and gaining a clear understanding of the overall landscape and current economic base of Atlantic City and included:
Working closely with our partner Fourth Economy, our team established initial parameters together with the city regarding key milestones and deliverables. This helped to establish a clear sense of responsibility to ensure the project was carried out effectively and that the project would have enduring benefits for the community.
To ensure a relationship characterized by transparency and collaboration, we engaged in monthly Executive Council meetings focused on strategy development.
As a part of the initial landscape analysis, our team with Fourth Economy embarked on a community listening tour to gain deeper insights into the Atlantic City community. This critical step allowed us to become acquainted with the perceived strengths, weaknesses, assets, opportunities, and challenges across the local ecosystem while also allowing us to directly involve community members in the process and identify potential opportunities for future engagement.
The second phase of the project focused on the strategic design and execution of a series of qualitative Build Sessions: interactive workshops to brainstorm, prioritize, and build solutions for Atlantic City. Session participants were key stakeholders including business, public sector and community leaders, philanthropic and program funders, as well as those involved in previously planned community initiatives to better understand lessons learned from prior projects.
Our team spearheaded the planning and execution for the Build Sessions. Leveraging insights from our partner Fourth Economy’s qualitative and quantitative research, we developed the concept for interactive workshops to focus on three emerging critical topics: Real Estate, Community Priorities on Quality of Life, and Jobs & Workforce Development.
Our team carried out two in-person sessions and one virtual session with a planned duration of approximately 3 hours each to allow community members multiple opportunities to engage.
In considering the need to maximize accessibility, our team conceptualized an interactive virtual Mural board for our online session that allowed participants to record their ideas with the guidance of our staff as facilitators. Participants seamlessly interacted through a variety of discussion boards, informed by a mix of quantitative insights and explanations of the identified themes, all designed to inspire conversation and ideation
In a similar fashion, our in-person made use of the same discussion boards in printed physical format. Participants were organized into small groups where lively discussions surrounding the three themes unfolded with our facilitation
While the client led the outreach efforts to drive participants to these sessions, Connect the Dots was called upon to provide extra on-ground outreach support in the days leading up to the meeting. Our team found key gathering nodes in the city, flyered, and found direct additions to the Build Sessions
Following the robust and in-depth conversations with participants, our team compiled all of the captured qualitative information from the three sessions, transcribed the materials, and supported the development of the final deliverable, the Action Plan. As such, key outcomes centered around:
Representative community input was successfully incorporated into the recommendations made by the team as part of the Action Plan delivered to the City of Atlantic City.
The final Economic Development Action Plan was released in Spring 2023.
CTD provided additional strategic advice to improve future Atlantic City outreach attempts and amplify the diversity and volume of participants