SAFE ROUTES TO SCHOOL Authentic Community Engagement

The 6 E’s of Safe Routes to Schools

  • EQUITY – Ensuring that Safe Routes to School initiatives are benefiting all demographic groups, with particular attention to ensuring safe, healthy, and fair outcomes for low-income students, students of color, students of all genders, students with disabilities, and others.
  • ENGINEERING – Creating physical improvements to streets and neighborhoods that make walking and bicycling safer, more comfortable, and more convenient.
  • ENCOURAGEMENT – Generating enthusiasm and increased walking and bicycling for students through events, activities, and programs.
  • EDUCATION – Providing students and the community with the skills to walk and bicycle safely, educating them about benefits of walking and bicycling, and teaching them about the broad range of transportation choices.
  • EVALUATION – Assessing which approaches are more or less successful, ensuring that programs and initiatives are supporting equitable outcomes, and identifying unintended consequences or opportunities to improve the effectiveness of each approach.

But the first E is Engagement.

ENGAGEMENT – All Safe Routes to School initiatives should begin by listening to students, families, teachers, and school leaders and working with existing community organizations, and build intentional, ongoing engagement opportunities into the program structure.

What is Authentic Community Engagement?

Authentic Community Engagement is the partnership between a party and the community where the foundation of the relationship is trust. The community must have ownership on every level of the relationship and it must not be solely transactional.

Organizing is the Key to Authentic Engagement

Who is Hollis Watkins?

“Hollis Watkins is the Founder and President of Southern Echo, Inc., a leadership development and education organization that provides training and technical assistance to individuals and organizations throughout the South in the areas of politics, education, environmental concerns, economic development, and community organizing.” -freedom50.org Watkins is a Freedom Summer (1964) Civil Rights Veteran and was also one of the first members of SNCC from the state of Mississippi.

Fundamentals of Community Organizing

There are four principles of community organizing as it is taught by Hollis Watkins:
  • Investigation
  • Education
  • Negotiation (Internally and Externally)
  • Demonstration


The first phase of Hollis Watkins’s Fundamentals of Organization is Investigation.
  • In the Investigation phase of organizing one must:
  • Identify the problem
  • Learn the history of the problem
  • Conduct Listening Tours (It is the first step to authentic engagement)
  • Research best practice model to address the problem
  • Develop new ideas for potential solutions


The second phase of Hollis Watkins’s Fundamentals of Organizing is Education:
  • Conduct more listening tours because the investigation phase never ends
  • Create shared learning experiences
  • Disseminate your findings from the investigation phase to stakeholders
  • Welcome feedback from community members and those impacted the most from the problem

Negotiation (Internally)

The third phase of Hollis Watkins’s Fundamentals of Organizing is Negotiation:
  • The third phase of Hollis Watkins’s Fundamentals of Organizing is Negotiation:
  • Negotiations happen both internally and externally
  • Internal negotiations should always happen first
  • Internal negotiations must involve all parties that are either have a deep investment or are deeply impacted by the issue who at hand
  • Internally negotiations must involve discussing what items are non-negotiable

Negotiation (Externally)

Third phase of Hollis Watkins’s Fundamental of Organizing is part two is External Negotiations:
  • External negotiations always happen after internal negotiations have happened.
  • You must present a united front when you are in the external negotiation phase.
  • Be clear about your non-negotiables
  • Know the position of external partner fully


The fourth phase of Hollis Watkins’s Fundamentals of Organizing is Demonstration:
  • The demonstration phase is a very simple step
  • But often it can be the phase that is overlooked.
  • The demonstration phase is your NorthStar.
  • Remember always have your end in mind.
  • Not to be confusing with a “demonstration” such as protesting
  • Demonstration reminds us that we must move from listening in the Investigation phase, teaching in the Education phase, discussing in the Negotiation phase to ACTION in the Demonstration phase.

Emma Butler

Every community is an "Emma Butler"- a trusted voice.

Breakout Session


Created with images by Jose Alonso - "untitled image" • Oliver Hale - "Back to school" • bantersnaps - "untitled image" • Les Anderson - "Child studying" • Rachel - "untitled image" • Jasper Garratt - "Ride from the bus."