Engaging Communities Through Issues Forums

Selecting key informants to interview is an intentional process, not a random selection of individuals. Your selection should include a range of roles and levels of responsibility to reduce the bias of information you receive and increase confidence in capturing the types and levels of concern for the issues identified. These individuals are essential to teach you about the background of issues within communities, can help identify others to interview, and may become champions of future efforts in their communities. Examples of people to include on your list:

• Representatives from the target audiences influenced by the issue; • Front line professionals who work to address the issue, these may come from a variety of Community Capital sectors; • Community/County/State government representatives related to the issue;

Members of community and non-profit organizations who work to address this issue.

Maryland 2018 Forum Participants

Provide key informants with a background document, such as a briefing paper, as you ask them to participate. Give them the timeframe for the proposed interview and the main questions you expect to cover within that time. Take notes or ask to record your conversation.

Forum Participants — Community Involvement

The nature of the issue and the outcome you're trying to achieve will determine how you engage community members. Using the “Community Capitals” approach engages stakeholders from a broad range of interested participants. In addition, you will want to ensure a diversity of participants who may come to the issue with different perspectives. These factors will determine how and who you will invite. You will want to try to have an equal number of representatives from each of the Community Capitals sectors. It can be expected that not everyone you invite will be interested or available to attend the forum. Therefore, your invitation list can exceed the maximum number you are aiming to gather. Another consideration is that top executives or department heads may not be able to attend but will be able to send others in their place. Your invitation to these individuals may include a line that indicates that if they are unable to attend, they are welcome to send a representative. Although there is no minimum or maximum number of participants, aim for 30-50 participants. This ensures working groups or breakout groups have enough participants to encourage dialogue. Your number may also be influenced by constraints of space (on-site), number trained facilitators you have, or by the online platform or the budget. You will have to weigh these constraints against the optimal number of invitees. An initial invitation should be sent by a recognized and respected leader who can indicate why and how addressing the issue with multiple sectors representation can create sustainable and impactful change. Inclusion of the list of planning committee members and affiliations in the letter of invitation will demonstrate this is a multidisciplinary effort. See Appendices 2-6, which offer sample correspondence. The planning committee and organizers can regularly evaluate the registration list, conduct outreach to bring the forum to the attention of invitees through multiple channels, and add more people to the list to ensure diverse representation of participants.

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