2017 Semifinalist
City of St. Paul, MN
January 1, 2017

Pop Up Meeting began as a conundrum about diversifying engagement of St. Paul residents. Few people showed up to existing community meetings to provide information or input, and they were generally older, white, middle-class homeowners, in contrast to the city’s population, which is 40 percent people of color, 22 percent in poverty, and has a median age of 31.2. Engaged by the city to address this shortcoming, a local artist wanted to generate creativity and joy in the practice of public engagement, devising a new method to increase diversity and participation in Saint Paul’s planning processes, and in 2014 ArtPlace America funded the development of Pop Up Meeting. After securing one of the city’s all-electric vehicles, a mobile concept was born. The artist and a designer created an inviting, playful logo for the project, evocative of an ice cream truck, and worked with local confectioner Saint Pops to craft an exclusive “Sweet Saint Paul” flavor to exchange for participation with Pop Up Meeting and acknowledge the value of participants’ input. The Public Works, Parks, and Planning departments worked to identify community meetings that could benefit from Pop Up Meeting, and partnered with St. Paul’s Innovation Team, creating a task force to track the project’s success over the summer. Seventeen Pop Up Meetings were hosted in the summer 2015 and 1,153 residents interacted with the team. At each meeting, passersby could stop for a brief chat related to city projects, and if they gave their input via a survey they received a popsicle. The survey data went back to city staff to inform their planning processes. Because of Pop Up Meeting’s success, $50,000 from the city’s general fund was dedicated across three departments to fund to institutionalize Pop Up Meeting for 2016 and beyond, with the aim of providing 72 meeting opportunities citywide. Based on lessons learned, the departments have also dedicated to provide project ideas, contribute intern and full-time staff, and incorporate the concept into St. Paul’s community engagement infrastructure. In addition, in an effort to get and give a younger resident perspective, Pop Up Meeting will also sponsor a high school student through “Right Track,” the city’s summer youth job jobs program.