In his article "From Short-order Cooks to Gourmet Chefs: Recipes for Innovation in Public Engagement," Matt Leighninger, executive director of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium in Washington, D.C. and Hamilton, Ontario, talks about how the core goals of public engagement have not changed. Rather, what’s changed is the use of innovation in “…trying to develop more productive, dynamic, and long-term relationships…” He talks about the changes that have taken placed in the past 10 years to engage the public in decision making and problem solving. Leighninger then talks about the limitations of these strategies to produce long-term changes in the ways schools operate. After presenting the basics of engaging audiences, he presents several ways in which some educators are using innovating techniques to engage the public in day-to-day life of schools through interaction and collaboration.
In another article titled “Community Engagement Builds Trust for Redistricting,” Kelly Avants, director of communications for Clovis Unified School District in California, talks about community engagement from a perspective of decision making, specifically regarding redistricting. She lays out four steps for building community trust and support for change (through engaging key audiences). Her strategies are not only tactical, but also strategic as well. For example, she talks about really listening to what people are saying and being prepared to use and act on that information.
Based on these two articles and what I am learning in my graduate program at Medill, here are three action items you can do now to better engage the public education in your district:
- Map Your Stakeholders: Determine who your stakeholders are what their interest in your district is.
- Find Your Stakeholders: Look for the places where your stakeholders interact so you know where to reach them (don’t forget to find which online communities they’re a part of).
- Consistency, Consistency, Consistency: Don’t wait until key decisions are to be made or issues arise; engage your stakeholders throughout the year to developing lasting relationships.