As I’ve mentioned in prior articles, strategic planning for the public sector requires more time than the process used for many nonprofits and smaller businesses.
A thorough public process with citizen engagement, authentic listening and taking citizen recommendations into account most likely will not happen in one meeting, or over a quick two-day weekend workshop.
Citizen engagement in strategic planning requires an open, authentic public process. This requires a structured, longer, and deliberate process to invite participation, listen, and reflected public input.
A colleague recently described several community visioning processes, one for a city and one for a public school system. He said, “All the citizens were invited to participate in the process from the get-go, which included both a vision and a mission statement not defined by the city council or school board or staff but by those of the community who attended one or more of the sessions.” The input was clearly integrated into the plans prior to being presented for approval by governing bodies.
A technique for consistent community-based visioning: “Meeting in a Box”
“Meeting in a Box” is a creative technique where the facilitating organization (such as a nonprofit or a municipality) equips leaders from community-based organizations to meet with their own groups for seeking visioning and community input for a number of topics. The input is then summarized and integrated into a citywide or community-based report.
To provide community feedback in a format you can consistently collect and process, you can provide community leaders with digital files for presentations they can use, along with discussion guides that cover critical topics. This ensures consistency in the types of questions asked, and topics discussed, so that no group is left out of the important community dialogue.
Assemble and deliver your meeting box. Include a facilitator guide, handouts, meeting ideas, and breakout exercises. A cost-effective plus: files can be duplicated and distributed using a shared drive such as a USB, with a master hard copy of all handouts also provided in each box.