HDR Strategic Communication Project for Minnesota DOT Wins Gold Award From TRB

The Transportation Research Board selected an HDR-led communications project for the MnDOT’s 2022 Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan Update to receive a gold award in its Communicating Concepts with the Public competition. The annual competition, now in its 16th year, showcases best practices and innovative approaches to communicating complex transportation information. 

The competition winner, “Storytelling as a Framework for Engagement: MnDOT’s 2022 Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan Update,” used a multi-format approach to connect with the public about the state’s highest-level transportation plan, which will guide decision-making for the next 20 years. 

Working closely with MnDOT, HDR’s Strategic Communications team developed a storytelling and story-sharing approach delivered through a variety of formats, designed to reach different audiences at multiple levels of interest and ability to engage. The team created an online Mode Lib (a transportation spoof on the popular word game, Mad Libs) as a fun introduction to the project; partnered with a local artist to translate six core transportation topics into comic-style stories; hosted a series of virtual trivia and storytelling events to learn about people’s experiences; and used an innovative online survey tool that gathered responses by video, audio and text. 

“By focusing on stories, taking a multifaceted and equitable approach, and building trusted relationships within Minnesota’s diverse communities, we were able to connect with people much more deeply than in traditional engagement processes,” said Katie Caskey, project manager at HDR. “This helped us understand nuance in the input that we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to incorporate into the process.”

HDR partnered with community-based organizations to gather input and lead conversations on core topics, including aging infrastructure, climate change, economy and employment, equity, safety and transportation options. In total, across all tools and phases, over 3,200 responses/interactions were gathered from people in Minnesota.

“It’s critical to find new ways to authentically engage our communities and gain their input,” said Transportation Strategic Communications Director Theresa McClure. “The MnDOT SMTP update project showcases how we are able to adapt to unexpected challenges and the importance of partnering with the community to be inclusive of those who will be impacted most by the transportation network intended to serve them.”

The winning projects will be honored in January at the 2023 TRB Annual Meeting. Learn more at