How Do We Get There? - Community InvolvementWhere Are We Now? | Where Do We Want to Be? | | Let's Go!
A commitment to place is not just good environmentalism, not just
a move toward resolving social and economic problems, it is also a means
for us to become citizens in both the natural and social worlds. If the
ground can become our common ground, we can begin to talk to one another
Gary Snyder, excerpted from the Utne Reader (July/August 1992)
Community involvement for action planning can be organized into a four (4) step process. This process starts with the organization of an action plan steering committee and then continues through to recommending action plan projects which the community supports. (Projects not having public support will have trouble getting implemented.)
Organize an Action Plan Steering Committee
The first step in the process is to develop a steering committee with a diverse membership. Members need to be willing to work together and to reach out to all segments of the community. They need to understand that they will be creating opportunities for change.
- Select a committee which represents a wide range of interests.
- Identify individuals who can be effective leaders.
- Develop a schedule for the action planning process.
- Discuss other related community projects and organizations.
- Hold the first steering committee meeting.
- Identify resource needs.
- Make assignments to committee volunteers.
Determine if you can get any assistance with the steering committee effort. Perhaps the local chamber of commerce, a university, local government or non-profit organization may be able to supply staff, equipment or office space.
Organize a Green Community Town Meeting/Open House
Once the steering committee has been organized and has begun work on the action planning agenda they may wish to hold a Green Community Town Meeting or Open House to inform the public of their work and to invite them to become involved. The town meeting/open house format should include the following preparation and events:
- Select a date and location.
- Develop an agenda.
- Organize logistics and materials for the meeting.
- Determine who will speak and their topics.
- At a minimum discuss ideas and concepts contained in the vision statement.
- Prepare a media and outreach program.
- Provide something that will draw participants such as entertainment or a contest.
- Provide refreshments.
- Outline and begin the steps toward selection of action plans.
Create Action Plan Subcommittees
Once the full steering committee has met several times and the Green Community Town Meeting/Open House has been held, there will be a better sense of the action planning topic areas which are of interest to the community. Subcommittees should be organized along the lines of topical areas such as land use, transportation, civic responsibility, public facilities, environmental stewardship, and cultural heritage.
- Organize the subcommittees and select leaders.
- Conduct workshop style meetings on a regular basis.
- Set goals and objectives for the work.
- Create action planning ideas.
- Test and evaluate these ideas.
- Expose the ideas to public scrutiny through public meetings, media sources and presentations to stakeholders.
- Evaluate and select action planning projects.
- Report back to the full steering committee.
Recommend Action Plan Projects
When each of the subcommittees has completed its work there should be a compilation of action plan projects. These projects should be further examined by the full steering committee subject to the following criteria:
- Do any of the projects conflict with one another; do any overlap?
- Does the project fulfill the community's vision of a Green Community?
- Does the community have the resources or might resources become available to implement the project?
- Does the project have the complete support of the community?
- Is there support from elected and key appointed government officials for the project?
- Has an organization been identified who will champion the project?
- Can the project be successfully implemented?
- Is the project cost effective?
- Will the project address identified barriers?
- What are the project's impacts - social, economic, environmental?
- Is the project sustainable?
You may not have the answers to each of these questions. Nevertheless they need to be asked to focus on project strengths and weaknesses. Through this process certain projects will rise above the others and allow for the selection and prioritization of action planning projects.
Tips for Successful Public Involvement
Now that you have a process and agenda for public involvement in action plan selection let's look at some ideas to make the public involvement process work in your community.
- Identify committee participants.
- Recruit key interest groups.
- Develop a committee with staying power.
- Draw up operating rules and procedures.
- Determine the role of the committee in the total community effort.
- Designate leadership.
- Determine the target audience.
- Develop a contact checklist.
- Prepare invitations.
- Develop a format that encourages active participation.
Utilize Media Resources Effectively
- Determine which media sources to use.
- Develop a message and theme for the media.
- Prepare media campaign materials.
- Action Plan Facilitator
- Support Staff
- Meeting Places
For more information, check out Building Local Partnerships, from Know Your Watershed, Conservation Information Technology Center.