Engaging Communities Through Issues Forums

A B OU T F O RUM S

What is a Forum?

fo·rum: A place, meeting, or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged. - Merriam-Webster

During informational interviews, we asked for preferred names for the community engagement event that eventually led to the term forum . The dictionary definition of forum shown here exactly described the kind of community gathering we were seeking — a place where community members could discuss, dialogue, and deliberate issues. We also wanted to go beyond deliberation to community member identification of options for actions and their tradeoffs leading to commitment to act.

In addition to informational interviews, we reviewed literature on forums. As Lukas and Hoskins (2003) explained, there are three types of community forums:

1. Community Education 2. Community Engagement 3. Community Action

Some forums are for learning about issues or problems; others about discussing issues or problems and still others are about taking action to address the issues or problems. Let’s examine the difference in how we use the terms issues and problems and the three types of community forums. A Community Education Forum could provide education on a community problem with the intended outcome of an increase in knowledge and understanding. A community problem could be a lack of information about any given topic — such as the impact of stressors on the farming population. Many Extension systems have offered this type of community forum, perhaps by another name, as they inform communities of the presence and impact of stressors on the farming population. A Community Engagement Forum might focus on how to get more racial minority, female, LGBTQ, young and/or farmers with disabilities integrated into farming communities and into agricultural educational and support services to reduce stressors. Intended outcomes would be behavioral in nature — taking action to be more inclusive of the diversity of farmers in the community. There is a body of literature about stressors experienced by these farmers included in the Building Farm and Farm Family Resilience in Our Communities e-Publication from Connect Extension located at: https://online.flippingbook.com/view/529228412/22/. With acknowledgement of the need for more inclusion, Extension Educators are well positioned to convene community members to better understand the challenges and ways to prevent, reduce, or mitigate stressors for these farmers.

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