Moving Beyond the Town Hall: Key Strategies for Successful Public Engagement, Diane Miller, Civic Collaboration


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  • Topic that is a bit of a departure – having new ideas and strategies to create more successful public engagement efforts would be helpfulOn top of all the things you are required to do to protect and manage ground water – planning, permitting, regulations, enforcement Have added challenge of dealing with resource that generates high emotional and contentious debate. People’s lives and livelihoods literally depend on it - stands to reason that emotions run high and competing interests can be deeply entrenched. Rule of capture and the complexity of our state’s laws, technical nature of the hydrology of water and interaction between ground and surface water,exploding population growth and record-breaking drought, Makes you want to go home and take a nap! Napping probably not a credible strategy beyond kindergarten - Have to find other ways for dealing with contentious issues and upset people. Limited and highly valuable resource like water, need to find new ways for people to grapple with the tough choices and shift the conversation from win/lose. Today I’ll cover a few important aspects of public engagement - help you create the conditions where a new dynamic can emerge. Leave with a few nuggets that you can directly apply the next time your district works with community members.
  • Get us in the zone - think about what it will take for public engagement to go from thisUncivil shouting matches where people are in camps of for and against – typically citizens against government Picture is from those amazingly bad health care town halls
  • to something like this, where people with different perspectives and interests are working together in a thoughtful, civil manner the needed facts and data are used and a well designed process that helps them actually come to decisions that are sound, credible and that produce positive long-term outcomes for all.
  • Instead of this conversation being in the abstract, like you to briefly share with person at your table just one of your experiences related to public engagement.Need to be brief -I’ll explain the process Pair up - turn to the person next to youif not even number, turn to the person at a table next to you or form a group of three and one person will just listen. But don’t move tables as this is really a short time frame. The first person will answer this first question for just a minute and a half – not time to share all the gory details -just focus on one or two things that really stood out that you thought were at the root of why that experience was bad. I’ll interrupt you when time is up and be sure to switch. Second person share a story of a time when it went well – again very brief but focused on what about it worked. If you’ve got three in your group, the third person will just listen. At three minutes, I’ll ask you to stop your conversation.  
  • First core value from IAP2Story about coming home to find spouse hammering in for sale sign in front lawn.Easy to agree to this in theory but the devil is in the details – so what does it take to go from yes, that makes sense, to a process that actually works.
  • Shifting perspectives since our country’s founding of the role of government and role of citizenFounding – original new england town halls, civic mindset, active role of citizen. Changes over history – political bosses, city father where citizen had more passive role.In the last 40 or so years moved to more of a government as vendor, citizen as customer mindset – hoping to move toward more of a citizen mindset.
  • Ask what kind of behavior changes would be needed from citizensAccountable, collaborative, patient, willing to work through issues, community-minded
  • Ask what else makes this hard…
  • Planning – adequate, inclusive, thorough – clearly defined purposeInclusion – proactively and equitably include diverse people and ideasCollaboration – encourage participants, government, community institutions to work together to come up with solutions that work for allOpenness – encourage listening, exploring new ideas, generate new optionsTransparency – clear about process, provide access to output generated in public processImpact – ensure effort and participant input has potential to make a difference; communicate how it didSustained – promote ongoing practice of public engagement – becomes the norm
  • IAP2's Spectrum of Public Participation was designed to assist with the selection of the level of participation that defines the public's role in any public participation process.  The Spectrum shows that differing levels of participation are legitimate and depend on the goals, time frames, resources, and levels of concern in the decision to be made.
  • TechniquesCommunicationFeedback loops
  • What are you trying to accomplish? What is the public policy decision to be made?Stakeholders – authority to make decision, those who will be effected, those with potential to block decisionSituation assessment – History, relationships, level of controversey, positions/interests, level of information, stage of community developmentEngagement – use spectrumDesign process – strategies, methods, timelineImplement – hold engagement events, ensure robust communication, explain how input influenced decision, work with mediaEvaluate - throughout
  • Moving Beyond the Town Hall: Key Strategies for Successful Public Engagement, Diane Miller, Civic Collaboration

    2. 2. How do we move from this…
    3. 3. To this…
    4. 4. Public Engagement StoriesIn pairs, share stories for about 1.5 minutes each One person share a brief story of a situation where the public engagement went ALL WRONG! One person share a brief story of a situation where the public engagement was DONE RIGHT!
    5. 5. What we’ll talk about today…  Changing views  Principles  Spectrum of engagement activities  Designing effective processes
    6. 6. Public Engagement Is Not Selling the public on… Getting votes for… Convincing the public to…. A meeting to complain/find fault with…The three minute citizen communication ata council meeting A process where staff/non-profit controls outcome
    7. 7. The public should have a say indecisions about actions that couldaffect their lives.
    8. 8. CHANGING VIEWS“CUSTOMER” “CITIZEN”• Gives away power • Accountable• Allow others to • Committed define needs • Determines the• Consumers not future creators • Exercises ownership• Think in terms of • Acknowledges I/Me change will come• Wants services through citizens without bearing costs
    9. 9. CHANGING BEHAVIORSSTAFF ELECTEDS• Partner/Consultant • Look “outward” rather• Open to alternative than “inward/upward” ideas • Don’t have to know all• Understand the answers / control importance of citizen values outcome• Let go of controlling • Be open to new ideas outcomes – move • Know when to follow “control” to process • Understand the power• Listen of “process” • Listen
    10. 10. Why it’s hard… Distrust, cynicism and apathy Requires new mindset / skills / behaviors Perceived loss of control
    11. 11. BENEFITS AND CHALLENGESBENEFITS CHALLENGES• More credible, lasting • May take longer to decisions make decisions (in• Provides “cover” short run)• Faster program • May be more implementation (long expensive (in short run) run)• Less “blowback”• More creative decisions• More informed
    12. 12. Core Principles for PublicEngagement Careful planning  Transparency and and preparation trust Inclusion and  Impact and action demographic  Sustained diversity engagement and Collaboration and participatory culture shared purpose Openness and learning From National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation
    13. 13. IAP2 Public engagement spectrum Increasing Level of Public Impact Inform Consult Involve Collabora Empower te To provide To obtain To work To place finalG Lthe public public directly with To provide the decision-O with feedback on the public public with making power balanced and analysis, alter throughout balanced and in the handsA objective natives the process objective of the public. information to and/or to ensure that information to assist them decisions. the public assist them in in concerns and understanding understandin aspirations the problem, g the are alternatives, problem, alte consistently opportunities rnatives, opp understood and/or ortunities and solutions.
    14. 14. IAP2 Public engagement spectrum Increasing Level of Public Impact Inform Consult Involve Collabora Empower te We will keep We will keep We will work We willP I you informed. you informed, to ensure that We will look to implementR S listen to and your you for advice what you acknowledge concerns and and decide.O E concerns and aspirations innovation inM aspirations, are directly formulating and provide reflected in solutions and feedback on the incorporate how public alternatives your advice input developed and influenced and provide recommendati the decision. feedback on ons into the how input decision to
    15. 15. IAP2 Public engagement spectrum Increasing Level of Public Impact Inform Consult Involve Collabora Empower te • Fact Sheets • Public • Workshop • BallotsT q • Web sites comment s • Citizen • Citizene u• Newsletter • Focus • Deliberativ juries advisoryc e• Presentatio groups e polling or • Delegated committeesh s ns • Open forums • Consensus decisionsn • Radio houses • Charrettes -building • Press • Surveys • Participatori release • Public y decision- • Recorded meetings making hotlineCommunication: One-way Two-Way Multi-WayFeedback Loops: None Few Many
    16. 16. Identify Conduct Identify Purpose / Situation Stakeholders Goals Assessment Select Types Implement Design ofand Manage Process Engagement Evaluate Results Feed information gained & lessons learned back to decision-making process
    17. 17. Questions before beginning a publicengagement process: Are we ready? Do we know exactly what our goals are in going before the public? How will we use the results? Are we prepared to “take hands off the wheel” of engagement results? (Control moves from outcome to process.) Are we going to the public early enough in the decision-making process? Do we have budget monies/alternative preparations to do adequate outreach and information preparation?
    18. 18. Suggested Meeting Steps:1.Framing the issue2.Build relationships3.Discuss hopes and dreams4.Focus on possibilities (and “assets”)5.Have real conversations6.Don’t push for resolution prematurely
    19. 19. What we talked about today…  Changing views  Principles  Spectrum of engagement activities  Designing effective processes
    20. 20. Resources and ContactinformationNational Coalition for Dialogue & Association of Public Participation Miller(512)