Self-assessment tool can help strengthen highway safety partnerships

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Implementing a successful Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) program takes many partners and stakeholders, but the path to developing these important partnerships can be challenging. Now, highway safety practitioners have a new tool to help get key partners on board and keep them engaged in TZD efforts. In a recent webinar, the U of M expert behind the development of the new tool—a stakeholder engagement and communication self-assessment—outlined its use and benefits.

“Stakeholder involvement is so important in addressing a problem as complex as TZD,” said Kathy Quick, an associate professor in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. She told webinar participants that the tool was developed for their use. “It’s not a tool for scoring whether your agency is or is not performing well enough—it’s an interactive tool that helps you assess where you are and then imagine what the next step would be.”

The self-assessment tool is part of a comprehensive suite, dubbed A Road Map for Implementing the Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) National Strategy on Highway Safety, available for free on the National TZD website. Developed by a multidisciplinary team led by CTS, this new guidance highlights what is necessary for a successful TZD program while accounting for unique jurisdictional characteristics.

TZD road map

The online self-assessment tool walks users through a series of six aspects of stakeholder involvement:  quality of stakeholder partnerships, engagement strategy, agency capacity for engagement, level of engagement, shared metrics, and benefits of engagement.

“Breaking stakeholder involvement down into these six dimensions is helpful because it can get very complicated to understand how all the aspects of stakeholder relationships work together as a whole,” Quick said. “Therefore, we use a matrix to help users assess the strength of their commitment to stakeholder relationships and the resulting benefits.”

Using the example of stakeholder partnership quality, Quick demonstrated how the tool works. As users move through an assessment, they are asked whether they know who their stakeholders are and if they have identified gaps and set priorities for strengthening relationships. They are also asked if they know the key stakeholders’ priorities and desires for partnership, if there is mutual trust and respect, and if stakeholder relationships provide an advantage to both their agency and their partners. When users have a question about an area, such as the importance of mutual trust, they are guided to resources that outline the importance of trust and a simple tool for improving trust in stakeholder relationships.

“This assessment is not meant to help you just admire the problem of stakeholder involvement, but to provide some very specific ideas, tools, and examples to help you move forward,” Quick said. “It takes a developmental approach that guides users to better understand what progress would look like, then provides resources to identify how improvements could be made and gives tools and examples for improvement.”

After completing the self-assessment, users receive a printable report highlighting their responses and gauging the current level of their organization’s practices that support stakeholder and partner engagement with TZD efforts.

This work was sponsored by AASHTO in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration and was conducted under the NCHRP, which is administered by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.


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Michael McCarthy