What happens when you’ve set up a great process and no one shows up? Susan Fitter Harris goes back to the drawing board on engagement to try to answer this question. She focuses particularly on the environment for the engagement:
Genuinely engaging residents requires more than a community-wide meeting or two. Engagement efforts can fall short for various reasons. Neighbors may not trust that organizing entities have their best interests at heart. A community that’s been “planned to death” and never seen results may be feeling fatigue and the frustration of not being heard. Residents of high-crime communities may be suffering from trauma; for them, engaging may even feel unsafe.
She offers a handful of “top engagement tips,” based on Institute for Comprehensive Community Development fellow Jim Capraro’s thoughts and experience, and a recent meeting of the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation program (BJCI), under the Department of Justice:
- Understand what is meaningful to the community.
- Respect the community’s prior experiences.
- Get help navigating cultural barriers.
- Think of the work as relationship building.
Contributor: Benjamin Peterson, Pepperdine School of Public Policy Alumnus, MPP ’16.