Spotlight: Indian Boundary Park Advisory Council
Welcome to the first installment of the blog series Spotlight on PACs, where Park Advisory Councils from across the city share best practices and discuss common issues facing park volunteers in Chicago. The Chicago Parks Foundation is excited to get the word out about the great work being done in our parks, and this series will start by highlighting our ten 2015 PAC Award winners, who we awarded with a $500 grant at the 2015 PAC Conference: PACs are GOLD!
First up, Indian Boundary Park, a beautiful historic park at 2500 W. Lunt, in the West Ridge community area. Last week, Maggie sat down with IBPAC president Leta Dally and IBPAC member/webmaster/social media guru Daniel Ebel to talk about all things Indian Boundary Park Advisory Council–particularly the best practices they employ (and what not to do!) in using technology to advance their mission and get the word out.
Both Leta and Daniel recently stepped forward into their leadership roles in early 2014 after the zoo had been closed and the old fieldhouse had burned down. While neither of them expected to walk away from their initial interest meeting as officers, Leta was happy to “contribute to things that we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.” The PAC was initially composed of just 4 members, but since those early months, the meetings have grown thanks to some online innovation by PAC members, especially Daniel.
In addition to planning some exciting events coming up at Indian Boundary Park (details at bottom of this post), IBPAC is leading the way in how they reach out to park users through their online presence. In 2014, they entirely redesigned the IBPAC website to be more dynamic as well as mobile responsive. IBPAC shared their process to get event news out to the public:
- Write a post about the event for the website.
- Write a blurb about the event and tweet it from the PAC account with a link to the website post.
- Submit event and website post to community boards such as Every Block.
- Request other community organizations post the link on their social media.
IBPAC can also be found on all social media outlets @IBPAC, so they reach park users of all ages. Both Leta and Daniel emphasized how essential it is to have someone on the PAC who is a web expert, in addition to the other diverse skill sets needed.
The wide range of expertise in IBPAC was especially helpful when IBPAC set out to collect park patron experience feedback through community surveys. Using surveymonkey.com, they easily created a survey about park use, features, and demographics to distribute to park users. The online format made it easy to distribute–they simply handed out fliers with a shortened bit.ly link to make it simple for everyone to go online at home and take the 5 minute survey. The data they collected provides a rich picture of the diverse park users, and Leta is confident that they will use the data to guide PAC decisions in the future.
IBPAC had previously implemented a paper survey from which they learned a great deal–including how to NOT give a survey. The paper-based survey was administered out loud, in person, and with fill-in-the-blank answer choices. This prohibited many people from taking the survey, as it required too much time in person, resulting in 70 successful surveys compared to over 100 for the online one. Based on their website traffic logs and online surveys, IBPAC now has a wealth of information about Indian Boundary Park users’ interests–particularly in the lagoon and bird walks.
Another interesting project that IBPAC members are working on is Smart Chicago compilation of PAC information. Please find a spreadsheet of PAC data here, and feel free to contribute and edit!
Lastly, here is IBPAC's advice for other PACs:
- Make your bylaws your own - IBPAC redid their bylaws to make some officer positions optional.
- Don't be daunted when people don't come. It doesn't mean they are not interested! Post your minutes and agenda so if schedule conflicts do occur, everyone can still see what is happening.
- Get on twitter and tweet about your PAC's activities, and join the Chicago PACs Twitter list. This is an open platform without building anything from scratch and allows for direct messages to other users without following them.
Stay up to date with all of Indian Boundary Park Advisory Council website updates, social media, and calendar, and start to improve your PAC’s web presence to reach and serve more people!