We Move from Big Projects to the Big Vote

Our communications for Big Projects was a Big Adventure. Our guests took us to the nation’s biggest recent efforts. We hoped you enjoyed the tour!

Our interviewees highlighted how communications and public involvement for these multi-billion dollar projects kept these projects moving forward. Those communications strategies played a huge role in planning and construction, as well as the aftermath when the dust settled and the projects were completed and being used.

Big Projects really do take on Big Lives of their own. They can span decades – and in some cases take an actual lifespan. Take Boston’s Big Dig – a tunnel going through downtown. Children growing up when the project was first envisioned were adults by the time the project was finished with construction and will be nearing senior status when the project is paid off.

Boston’s “Big Dig”, before and after.
(Credit: treehugger)

Our guests highlighted that when Big Projects face big troubles, it’s the communications plans and the messengers that face nearly untenable stress to deliver the hard news that must be delivered. Cost overuns, schedule delays, testing failures, accidents. Big Projects don’t get built without some big problems to solve. None of these are topics are easy news to deliver, but communication is essential to transparency, ongoing decision-making and keeping hard-earned trust with partners and the public.

The wind farm on the roof of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation developed by
Venger Wind
(Credit: gizmag)

Big Projects generate Big Energy, too. That’s the case with small-wind projects, one of which we also highlighted in this month’s blog in Oklahoma City. There a roof top wind project is being used to help show us a new opportunity to capture wind energy right on top of our roofs. Buildings consume a whopping 36 percent of our energy, so rethinking roof tops as wind farms could be one of many keys to reducing that use. Big Projects create another kind of energy too – community momentum. Communities rally around a Big Projects, injecting passion, energy and life into it. That was the case with the rebuilding of the World Trade Center and “Imagine New York: Giving Voice to the People’s Vision,” the intensive planning process for it. More than 4,000 people took part in the hundreds of workshops to give input to that all-important effort.

Credit: Silverstein Properties

Another city that pulls at our hearts is the Big Easy – New Orleans.This year’s Super Bowl is being played there, a city on the comeback after suffering a near-knockout blow from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Because of a Big Project, the Super Bowl’s chances for an on-time kickoff will be right on schedule. A $14.6 billion hurricane protection system is all but completed and has weathered its first hurricane season. Our blog featured that Big Project as well.

A portion of the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System
(Credit: Team New Orleans, US Army Corps of Engineers)

Big Projects are based on having a big vision. And, big visions are alive and well with new bold ideas on the horizon. How about a strip of solar panels installed around the moon, capturing the sun’s energy and beaming it back to earth? Yes, someone is proposing that big idea. Other big ideas need a place to be tested before going mainstream into our day to day lives. So, one Big Project we featured includes a new city that won’t include people. Dubbed, the “Billion Dollar Ghost Town,” it’s to be built in New Mexico with the sole purpose of testing new innovations in a built-out town.

Credit: NASA

Once again, we wouldn’t have been able to offer such a wide-range of fascinating blog postings without the assistance of contributors who have key involvement with these projects.

We’d like to thank:

Virginia “Ginny” Greiman, the Risk Manager and Deputy Chief Counsel for Boston’s Central Artery/Tunney Project, known to all as the Big Dig. She’s now an Assistant Professor at Boston University, focusing on Megaprojects and Planning.

M. David Lee, a Partner with Stull and Lee Inc., a Boston-based architectural and planning firm. Mr. Lee was the Principal-in-Charge for Stull and Lee’s role in the award-winning design of Vent Building No. 7 for the Central Artery/Tunnel Project.

Gianni Longo, the founding Principal of ACP Visioning + Planning, which facilitated the ambitious public involvement concept called “Imagine New York: Giving Voice to the People’s Visions.” It allowed New York City area residents to give input into the rebuilding of the World Trade Center.

Ken Morgan, Chairman and CMO of Venger Wind, the company that constructed the nation’s largest rooftop wind farm at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation in Oklahoma City.

René Poché, a public affairs official with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District, and a key player in the public involvement effort in the construction of the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System. It’s built to withstand a 100-year storm, which has a 1 percent chance of happening in a year.

Heather Grondin Manager of Communications and Issues Management for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, which played a significant role in the public outreach for the Detroit River International Crossing process. We welcomed her thoughts on the challenges and strategies involved in a Big Project between two nations.

Robert Brumley, the Senior Managing Director of Pegasus Global Holdings, the firm behind the so-called, “Billion Dollar Ghost Town,” which is actually named the Center for Innovation, Testing And Evaluation.

Now we move to our next topic – Elections – which is fitting, given it is now November and the election cycle will come to a close in a few short days. Elections are an essential means of public involvement, a topic and an ethic that is the foundation of our firm.

We will look at our nation’s voting system as well as others to see how efficient and inclusive we are. We will  look into the future and try to see how elections a generation from now might be held. Given the changes in technology, who knows, we might be texting our votes! And, we may even Rock the Vote a little with some of our guest interviewees. (Yes, that’s a hint about an upcoming story.)

So please keep reading and sharing, and this month add voting to the list, as well.

Thanks and see you in the posts to come.

Catherine Smith, President
Collaborative Services, Inc.

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