Engaging Communities Through Issues Forums

Principle Four: Solutions are Multi-level, Innovative, and Build on Existing Assets

One approach to achieving solutions to complex social issues is by building social capital as part of asset-based community development. More information is available here. Asset-based social capital building focuses on strengths and potential rather than deficits and needs. This principle informs the approach to facilitation of forums and encourages work across boundaries to achieve community and state-level change (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1993).

Assets can be people, places, funding, and any other resource that people or organizations are willing to share and/or cultivate. By focusing and building on the resources and assets already held, solutions developed from forums can create movement forward. Action is not thwarted by "lack of resources." In this way, collaborative innovation can be created, and improvement efforts can be more effective. When community members dedicate their time and talents to change they desire, the results can be more appropriate to the community and can be long-lasting.

Additional Cooperative Extension asset-building resources can be found here.

Principle Five: How Issues are Named and Framed Helps to Engage Community Participation

Once you have identified a topic and conducted a literature review to gather additional information, key informant interviews and/or focus groups can then be used to explore the issue further.

Interviews and focus groups provide local perspective on the problem(s) or issue(s). They also can assist in identifying relevant sub-issues or topics to be addressed.

These techniques can assist in identifying content to share during forums. They ground the forum. Information about subtopics can be shared and the topic titles can be used for breakout or working groups. More information on problem framing is available here. Inclusion of representatives of the community members experiencing the issue or problem, or with the ability to address the issue or problem, will increase the likelihood that the issue(s) are named and framed in words that have appeal and are understood and acted upon by the local community.


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