Public Involvement Techniques
3.C - Taking Initial Action Steps
Agencies need specific ways to solicit feedback from community people,
resolve differences, and integrate the results into a process of planning
or project development. Some initial steps include the following:
- Determine how and when feedback information will be used.
Be receptive to feedback and prepare to use it during ongoing
staff work in planning and project development. Determine when
feedback on specific issues is needed and by whom.
- Establish clear channels for feedback to affect agency decision-making.
Provide a well-defined avenue for information, testimony, and
opinions from the public to reach agency decision-makers and policy-setters.
- Set up ways to give further information and get comments
and questions. Establish telephone connections that people
routinely can use to obtain information and give feedback, comments,
or support. However, because many people prefer methods that are
instantaneous and hassle-free, supplement telephone connections
with other methods, such as on-line services, that make it easier
to give and get information.
- Sponsor brief surveys or small groups to preview community
viewpoints. Investigate a small but representative sample
of the community to pinpoint peoples preferences quickly.
Design the form of the survey to objectively test preferences.
- Sponsor focus groups to ascertain community concerns in detail.
Hold focus groups of representative people to get a broad outline
of what people want to see and what concerns agencies might encounter
in specific situations. Repeat the technique in more than one
location to help determine geographic-based differences in opinion.
Use the results to help set up an overall public involvement strategy
and specific procedures.
- If an impasse is reached, try negotiation or third-party
intervention. Assess the complexity of the conflict to be
resolved and how intently participants are holding to their own
positions without compromise. Use a skilled, in-house person to
work informally with the parties to reach consensus. If the stalemate
holds fast, bring in a mediator or other third-party neutral to
assist the group in approaching the issues from other angles,
improving their conflict resolution skills, and coming to agreement.
- Evaluate the approach with participant advisors. Ask
participant advisors if a technique is appropriate or rewarding.
Meet with community advisors to get a sense of the best methods
of getting feedback and comments and resolving conflicts.
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