WalkMA Network connects towns

WalkMA Network connects towns

By Brendan Kearney/Communications Director, WalkBoston

At our WalkBoston annual meeting in March 2018, we announced that we were building a statewide WalkMassachusetts network. It would consist of advocacy organizations, municipal committees, and community groups working on walking.
The Network aims to connect and support new, emerging, and existing local organizations. Key Network features include community and statewide sharing of advocacy techniques, member recruitment strategies, and approaches for securing improvements to the built environment.

Many organizations and committees have questions about how to build constituencies for improving local walking, and we see great opportunities to learn from each other and to work together. Early interest came from points all over the state, including Western and Central Massachusetts, the North Shore, Greater Boston, Metrowest, the South Coast, and the Cape. To maximize statewide participation, we gathered at Worcester Polytechnic Institute on Saturday, December 1, for our initial in-person meeting.

After introductions to let everyone learn a little bit about each person and group in the room, participants suggested topic areas to create the agenda in an “unconference” format. Each person proposed a topic they wanted
to discuss by writing it on an index card. Cards were then exchanged, and everyone ranked the new card’s topic by writing a number between 1 and 5 at the top — and then trading for another card. Once a card had five ratings, each card was totaled for a score. These were the six highest-ranked topics used for breakout sessions:

  1. Low-cost infrastructure improvements
  2. Outreach. Emails. Social media. How to do it. Resources to use.
  3. Content accessibility, navigation, mobility, features [sensory input]
  4. Tools to incentivize behavior change
  5. Vision Zero – enforcement of lower speed limits
  6. Best practices for reaching out and gaining support from people not involved in bike/ped advocacy

We’re thankful to everyone who took part for their lively conversations, questions, and suggestions. At the end of the day, we launched an email listserv/online discourse forum to continue the connections that were made in Worcester. We also added notes from each of the breakout sessions and the full list of topic suggestions to the forum so that additional resources can be shared.

We’re excited that participation in the Network is growing to include so many groups working on walking throughout the Commonwealth—and we’re gearing up for more throughout 2019. Visit walkMAnetwork.org to see participating groups and learn more about how you can get involved.

This article was featured in WalkBoston’s February 2019 newsletter.
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