Ideas to help you envision A Better Way
So how can we help school and policy leaders consult families, or make public engagement more meaningful for community members?
We’re posting resources here.
Taking budgeting to the people
$98 million in public money for 440 local projects, including bike lanes, gardens, street lights, and technology in schools and libraries. … Participatory Budgeting is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget.
“We enable residents to direct public money to their priorities. Once they are invested in budgeting, people make sure that tax dollars are spent wisely and efficiently, and they find ways to attract more resources to their community. For every $5 million that is directly allocated through PB, another $1 million is raised through matching funds, in-kind contributions, and other sources. All of this money goes to projects that address key needs and that directly improve people’s quality of life.”
Community engagement toolkit: Strategy advice and innovative practices
You don’t have to host a meeting to gather community input. This kit covers planning strategies and shares some great ideas, including Walkshops, SpeakOuts, Pop-Up Visioning, Community Mapping, Visioning Workshops, Summits, and Participatory Budgeting.
Better exchanges (or how not to spring big ideas on an unsuspecting public)
This one is a lesson learned from the City of Seattle that could be applied to school districts and various state agencies.
In July 2015, Seattle’s mayor office released recommendations from an advisory group to boost affordable housing, a topic many in the city embrace.
And yet … the ensuing fray captured what many Seattle school advocates are all-too-familiar with: public suspicion and antagonism, followed by a quick government retreat.
Could a proactive engagement process have resulted in public dialogue and deliberation BEFORE the steering group met? And with dialogue and deliberation happening in the public sphere (not just among a chosen few) would Seattle be better positioned to get public buy-in on innovative ideas? Could task forces work more effectively?
Those are the issues we are exploring with A Better Way: The Charles Rolland Initiative for Public Engagement.
- Here is a toolkit that Portland, OR, developed about 10 years ago to promote a general and informed exchange of opinions between the city and its neighborhoods. Portland OR Toolkit
- Here is an outreach and involvement handbook that Portland developed.
- Here is a framework citizens and government created together in Alexandria, VA (And background on the process.)
- And then there is this, Making public participation legal, which looks at how legal frameworks interfere with engagement … and how we can change governing policies to address that.
These materials were developed to improve public engagement between cities and neighborhoods, but they could be applied to school district and school communities.
Future Search: Meeting method, facilitation philosophy, and strategy to change the world
Future Search is an intensive 16-hour planning meeting that brings all parties to the table – first for dialogue, then for action planning. The method has been around for about 30 years and has been used all over the world.
Applications in the K-12 world could include school transformation or school improvement plans. Under Washington State law, all parties (including families and community) are supposed to be involved in these plans, but in practice are often left out. Methods like Future Search could help school staffs and communities bridge differences and partner more effectively.
Discovering community – This 30-minute video documents a Future Search around affordable housing in Santa Cruz, California. Includes 18 month follow-up.
Applications in general education – Case studies, FAQs
Conditions for Success
- Get the “whole system” in the room. Invite a significant cross-section of all parties with a stake in the outcome.
- Explore the “whole elephant” before seeking to fix any part. Get everyone talking about the same world. Think globally, act locally.
- Put common ground and future focus front and center while treating problems and conflicts as information, not action items.
- Encourage self-management and responsibility for action by participants before, during, and after the future search.
From NPR, on outreach in Tanzania:
James Fishkin, a professor at Stanford University, …has devoted his career to persuading leaders to consult their citizens before making difficult policy decisions. But he says you can’t just do a poll. ‘If you have ordinary polls people usually are not well-informed. You don’t want to follow public opinion when the public just has a vague impression of sound-bites and headlines.’ So Fishkin created what he calls a ‘deliberative poll.’ “ – Excerpt