Engaging Communities Through Issues Forums

WH A T H A P P E N S A F T E R TH E F O RUM ?

A successful forum will help you and participants build new awareness, relationships, and cross organizational connections. There can be changes that occur in the short term and long term. What happens both in the short term and long term depends on your process and intended outcomes, and on the impetus to keep identified solutions and actions moving forward.

Communication Communicating post-forum outcomes to key stakeholders, participants, and citizens of the community will assist keeping everyone informed about the bigger picture regarding the issue you are trying to address. Those who could not attend will see this type of community engagement is a strategy for success. Staying connected to the working groups and providing resources to them can be a way to incentivize actions. Periodic emails/phone calls help to let the group members and group organizers stay connected to the outcomes they are working toward. Keeping all the participants updated on progress of the groups helps them to see that the “piece” they are working on contributes to the outcomes of the bigger “whole.” Reconvening the whole group after a short period of time for report-back is another way to keep individuals/groups motivated toward action. Action and Accountabi l ity It is easier to keep processes moving if you have a leader (or rotating leaders) for the small action groups. These individuals are a point of communication for the Forum Organizer. Having scheduled follow-up check- in meetings with all the group leaders provides structure, allows opportunity for sharing, strategizing and problem solving. It also provides an opportunity for these individuals to share all the group’s progress with their group. Publ icize Outcomes As the teams move forward, find ways to make outcomes known in a variety of ways. You could post results on websites and social media, send brief final reports to key stakeholders or press releases to newspapers, and send letters of appreciation to all participants outlining outcomes, etc. Appendix 15 contains an excerpt of a Special Supplement to the Delmarva Farmer published in January 2019. The excerpt was written after the 2018 Linking Farm Vitality and Health Forums in Delaware and Maryland by a writer and public relations coordinator with the Delaware Farm Bureau who attended both forums. Also in Appendix 15 is a link for the 16-page supplement to the Delmarva Farme r. Articles were written by multiple authors, most with Extension appointments. The supplement was funded by University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, University of Maryland Extension, the Northeast Extension Risk Management Education Center, Delaware Farm Bureau, and the Sustainable Coastal Communities project of the University of Delaware Sea Grant program. The intent was to make a wider public aware of topics shared during the forums. After publication, in addition to distribution by the Delmarva Farmer to all subscribers, the supplement was distributed throughout Delaware and Maryland during agriculture meetings. It was also distributed to participants in the Ohio 2019 forum.

Our Story: Keep on Keeping On

Based on our first forums as well as the most recent, we’ve learned that there can be ongoing tasks to extend impact. We believe this is important as one forum doesn’t cha nge a condition. It gets people to collaborate. We committed to keeping the momentum going to strengthen outcomes.

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