Engaging Communities Through Issues Forums

For example, you might choose the Strategic Doing™ process to produce collaborative action. You may need the services of an expert in that process or others you choose to use. The expert can help you determine and develop the resources for this part of the forum. Additionally, you’ll be developing the invitation list for forum participants. We recommend using a Community Capitals approach to assure all sectors are included and demographic information to be representative and inclusive of the community. You can revisit Tool 2: Engaging Community – Identifying Community Capitals Worksheet in the Tools section of this how-to guide for developing the invitation list. Representatives from all seven Community Capitals sectors will need to be identified, contacted, and invited to register for the forum. Monitor registrations to ensure diversity of participants from different Community Capitals sectors. Also monitor for individuals who are decision makers as well as doers, and monitor for community demographic representation. If any are underrepresented, consider making a personal contact to increase the likelihood of participation. To ensure your forum goes well, you will want to recruit and train facilitators. Trained facilitators are needed if you use case studies or other breakout sessions. If facilitators are to use a specific process such as Strategic Doing™ they must be prepared to guide peo ple. And if they are doing the facilitation virtually, they may need technical training as well. Being able to facilitate discussion, keep notes, move people through the processes and stay on time are important to the success of the forum. As the date becomes closer, your team will need to prepare for the day of the forum. This may include items like finalizing food and beverages; communicating final registration numbers to the venue; and preparing packets of information — including the agenda, presenter bios, list of resources, list of attendees/contact emails, any background information you’d like participants to have, and any other materials for registrant packet as well as to assemble packets. Gathering supplies and equipment, creating seating charts, and finalizing presentations and evaluations will all need to be completed prior to the forum. Use “ Tool 7: Preparing for the Forum Day Checklist” as a guide. If doing an online forum, you will need to create Google Drive folders/Google documents or other shareable tools for your documents (one per facilitator) that they can share visually and take notes when working with small groups of participants. The same person may need to post links, so they need to understand the tasks and the technology. “Day of the Forum” needs some planning. You will want to arrive early and have a check-in meeting with facilitators/speakers. You’ll need to set up a resource table and AV and lay out other supplies and materials. You’ll need to e nsure that the room is laid out according to specifications. Your team will also need to help the day go well by staying on time, encouraging networking, and having a backup plan if things go wrong. Having a person documenting the event by taking pictures will be useful for post forum communication. If you are hosting an online forum, be sure to arrive early, test connections with all speakers, and set up break-out groups before you start. For encouraging the return of participants after the Case Study activity, lunch break and Strategic Doing activity, create games and/or have door prizes. See “Tool 3: Considerations for In- Person vs. Online Virtual Forums” in the Tools section of this how-to guide. “After the Forum” tasks contin ue. We recommend two team debrief sessions including the planning committee, facilitators, and speakers. The first should be done immediately after the forum to get immediate feedback and ideas for improvement. A second debrief should be done within two weeks to allow for perspective and data analysis. Lessons learned should be captured for use in planning future forums. You will also want to reconnect with all registrants (not just those who attended) with a summary of the day, evaluation data, a thank you for their interest/attendance, a summary of small group session notes, a contact list, and other resources to deepen understanding. If you conduct a Community Action Forum, you’ll need to allow time for actions to occur and time to check in with those responsible for the actions. You may provide follow-up assistance.

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