It is surprisingly important to establish a structure for citizen engagement. Without a structure, your engagement process can become easily derailed, becoming nothing more than a venting session. I recently sat through one of these sessions as an observer. While I was happy to see several different groups of people normally opposed to each other in the same space, it was disappointing to see that there was no purpose or forward movement to this “dialogue” session. It is certainly good to let people air their grievances and begin to understand each other but if the process doesn’t aim toward resolution then nothing positive can come of it and the energy to tackle the issue at hand can dissipate.
As we mentioned in the last post, we have looked at some of the specific steps that can be taken in working toward resolution and we have created this presentation for The Communications Center, Inc. This describes our addition to the two Public Agenda’s and The Harwood Institute’s tools, a list of “Ways of Working Toward Resolution”. In addition to focusing on the endpoint of a deliberative process, we include possible methods that communities can use to build the relationships they need for sustained dialogues and to reach sustainable resolutions. We invite your feedback.
If you have trouble with the powerpoint, make sure you are clicking on “Read Only” or download this pdf version without any of the nice animation. Sorry OpenOffice users, still no support for password protected ppt files so you will have to use the pdf.
October 13, 2009 at 4:09 pm
There are two things that can be done to help avoid the problem of dialogue being derailed by aggressive participants: (1) Any dialogue, whether by a small group in a living room or with a big group in a meeting hall, will benefit by having an agreed leader or moderator who is neutral. The moderator would not take a position on the issues but a pro-active moderator can largely set the tone of the meeting and help people keep their feet on the ground. (2) Fair minded people sometimes shrink from getting involved. It helps to actively recruit some people of good will but of varying viewpoints or different constituencies to attend a meeting and to encourage them to speak out.