Engaging Communities Through Issues Forums


In recent years, Cooperative Extension began to emphasize health and well-being, policy, systems, and change initiatives. Using forums to educate and engage professionals and interested community members to create change would align with these system priorities. To make sustainable change, it will be imperative to engage community members and key stakeholders to address complex issues; Extension alone cannot. And yet, we are positioned in our communities and trusted by constituents to assist in making a difference. Our goal for this guide is to help you understand theory and processes that will allow you to address challenges affecting the farm population — individuals, families, organizations, and communities from an integrated, holistic perspective. This guide is your tool to plan, facilitate, and evaluate issue-to-action forums. The guide offers key strategies for planning and implementing a successful community engagement and change process. These include:  Choose the type of forum based on desired outcomes.  Give yourself and team plenty of time to prepare and conduct successful engagement processes — before, during and after the forum.  Name and frame the issue in ways that are inclusive and compelling to diverse audiences and multiple Community Capitals sectors.  Use techniques to engage key community members from planning and implementing the forum to post-forum activities.  Document and evaluate your processes and successes.  Keep engagement going through activities that complement traditional Extension educational programs.

We hope you will use the content of this guide to develop strategies to address critical issues at the community and policy levels. We hope you found “ Our Story” useful. You will create your own story.

And finally, we invite you to reach out to the authors (our emails are at the beginning of this document) if you have questions, would like some guidance, or want to s hare “ Your Story .” We also invite you to share your thoughts about this guide by taking this very brief survey. Your comments will help us revise and improve the content of this guide.


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