Having trouble recruiting dialogue participants?
February 7, 2011
Program Liaison and Editor Molly Barrett
We all dream of being agents of change in the world. That opportunity might be possible in our own communities by joining with others in a dialogue process to make progress on issues we care about. So, how can we convince people that taking part in a dialogue process can lead to action?
Many of us are skeptical. We know about too many public meetings where a few people air opposing views, tensions rise, and problems remain unsolved.
But it is still true that many of us are drawn to opportunities to “fix” things, and most of us want to believe that we can help.
Tap into that yearning! Explain how the process helps people discover how to use their voice and channel ideas into action. And help them believe that there are decision makers who are eager to hear what they have to say.
Emily Darnell-Nuñez, a consultant to the Albuquerque Foundation, recently remarked on the impact of the Strong Starts for Children dialogues, in and around Albuquerque, N.M.: “For so long it’s been the same group of people working to make things better for our children. Today, I see other people helping to carry this load.”
You can motivate people to take part by suggesting ways that your project can lead to action. Make a list of examples to use when you talk to people. You’ll find examples in stories on our website about communities where individuals and/or groups have taken on projects, and institutions have created new policies to support efforts for change.
Be prepared to respond to questions like: Why should I make the effort to take part? Who will listen to me? What’s in it for me—and for the cause I’m interested in? What might happen as a result of this dialogue?
A word of caution: Try to set realistic expectations. Beware of the “instant gratification” trap. Assure people that, through this process they give power to their own voice, others hear what they have to say, and they have an opportunity to find solutions that work for everyone. Ensure people that this requires hard work and patience, but the payoff is well worth it.
Everywhere we look we can see things in our communities that need to be improved—and there are countless people who want to help make those changes. If they believe their voice matters—and if they believe that their talk can lead to action—they are more likely to come to the table.
Tell us your story now!