How to organize dialogue and action efforts across multiple neighborhoods
Gloria Francesca Mengual
November 29, 2010
Program Director Gloria Francesca Mengual
Organizing dialogues across multiple neighborhoods can feel daunting, given the geographic expanse being covered, along with the number of residents you are trying to involve. Often this can result in over reliance on one coordinator to recruit all participants, manage communications, and handle all of the logistics related to holding multiple dialogues. This puts a lot of pressure on one person, increasing the likelihood of failure. So what's the alternative?
A good way to not only prevent coordinator burn-out, but also enhance the credibility of your dialogue/action effort within a large area is to ask neighborhood leaders – formal or informal – to be liaisons for the effort. When choosing someone, select a person who is respected by fellow residents and is able to attract people with varied perspectives.
To pay or not to pay? That question surfaces often. Most dialogue-to-change programs have little or no funding, so the most common option is recruiting liaisons based on their personal commitment to enhancing their neighborhood. However, if funding is available, providing liaisons with a stipend shows your coalition’s respect for the liaisons’ time, role and skills.
Once the coalition has identified liaisons for each neighborhood, the following are some ways to prepare before reaching out in their neighborhoods to promote the upcoming dialogue/action effort:
- Seek the advice of neighborhood liaisons when creating a ‘pitch’ for getting residents involved in dialogues. What matters to their fellow residents? Tailor your talking points.
- Meet with the liaison group so they can practice delivery of their key talking points. Stress that they should feel free to personalize their message.
- Remind them of the importance of using technology (Facebook, a neighborhood blog, text messages, email) to reinforce their spoken message.
- Stress the importance of going where people socialize, where they work, and where they worship to talk up the effort. Face-to-face conversations still remain the best way to motivate others to become involved.
For efforts that have sputtered and need to be rejuvenated, or in areas where only some neighborhoods have become involved, ask liaisons to consider hosting a neighborhood social (assuming there is some funding). Consider this social a ‘pep rally’ of sorts to stress to residents the importance of getting involved in strengthening their neighborhood. Answer “what’s in it for me?” for them while breaking bread together, offering a few raffle prizes and beginning to build community through the social – a process that continues to strengthen via dialogues.
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