Evanston pilots community ambassadors program

Julia Jacobs, Assistant City Editor

Evanston is introducing an ambassadors program next month that will train volunteers to serve as contact points between the city and community.

Ambassadors will be expected to attend local events, help manage city projects specific to their expertise and promote the city’s livability, the city announced March 27. The city is seeking about 20 ambassadors, but participation may increase as the program develops, said project manager Jonathan Williams-Kinsel.

“We’re trying to make it more personable by having your neighbors, your community, friends engage,” Williams-Kinsel said. “We think that’s more genuine.”

The idea for the program surfaced during the city’s year-end review when staff decided there was room to bolster community engagement, city manager Wally Bobkiewicz told The Daily.

“As we were reviewing those efforts at the end of last year, we decided we really need to do more face-to-face communication,” Bobkiewicz said. “We thought by creating this corps of volunteers we can help educate about the city and help us get information about the community out.”

Increasing the number of knowledgeable people already answering residents’ questions can only help communication between the city and its inhabitants, community engagement manager Martha Logan told The Daily.

“It will give us a whole new set of people with different connections, different abilities who are dealing with residents on a one-on-one basis,” Logan said.

An example of an ambassador’s role would be to attend an event like a spring Starlight Concert and be available to explain how to get a beach token clarify the status of a building under construction, Logan added.

“Sometimes that’s better coming from a neighbor than coming from a staff member,” Bobkiewicz told The Daily.

The city has contacted Northwestern, Evanston Township High School and other community partners in seeking people interested in applying for the position, Williams-Kinsel said.

Ambassadors will attend two three-hour training sessions in May, which will focus on both city operations and community engagement, Williams-Kinsel said. Those interested in participating who are age 18 or older should complete the online application by April 17.

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