Matt Leighninger at Public Agenda: “Whether dealing with an immediate challenge or building long-term infrastructure, participation skills are a valuable asset for anyone’s proverbial toolkit. In case you missed a post, we identified ten key talents (each with a set of specific skills) for public participation:
- Building Coalitions and Networks (coalition-building, finding and building online networks, developing cultural competence, working with young people)
- Recruiting Participants (mapping the community, creating recruitment plans, conducting one-on-one interviews)
- Communicating about Participation (clear messaging, creating a media plan, feeding the discussion about participation, reporting on results)
- Managing Conflict (understanding positions and interests, principled negotiation and interest-based problem solving)
- Providing Information and Options (issue framing, sequencing discussions, writing discussion materials)
- Managing Discussions (facilitating face-to-face groups, recording, moderating online forums, setting ground rules, giving feedback)
- Helping Participants Generate and Evaluate Ideas (brainstorming and visioning, using ABC standards)
- Helping Participants Make Group Decisions (dotmocracy, keypad polling)
- Supporting Action Efforts (planning action events, supporting action teams)
- Evaluating Participation (understanding process and impact evaluation, data collection)
We also discussed the importance of logistical and project management skills, and identified several free, online, commonly-used platforms and tools that can help with such tasks.
Although not everyone involved with a participation project needs all of these skills, participation leaders should be aware of these skills exist and know who in the community possesses them. Ultimately, training people in these skills is not only helpful for organizing a project or sustaining a process, but also for longer-term efforts to build a sustainable participation infrastructure.
Resources for Participation Leaders
Because public participation is such a diffuse field, many people who are trying to engage citizens more productively do not know that many tools, resources and case studies exist. They may not know that there are participation consultants or experienced practitioners nearby.
As a result, people continually ‘reinvent the wheel’ in public participation, and often make mistakes that others have already made. The first step in planning for participation, therefore, is to take a good look around at the resources and experiences available.
Many organizations, several of which are listed below, provide trainings, how-to materials, or other resources for building participation skills. These resources range from open source tools and information to full consulting and project management services….(More)”