Now that Brownbag #64 on “How we can involve MORE people . . . As MANY as possible” has been recorded, we’d like to follow up with some specifics to the final DOs and DON’Ts list we gave those who tuned in.

Keeping in mind our main advice:

  • In spite of what your instincts lead you to believe, “involving” people — in and of itself — does NOT help your legitimacy!
  • The number — or percentage — of people you “involve” is NOT the issue!

Instead, what you need to work like crazy to do — even in a Representative Democracy (where the public’s MAIN involvement role is through the election of their representatives) — is to INFORM and EDUCATE both the public-at-large, as well as your project’s Potentially Affected Interests (PAIs), so that they appreciate that:

    1. There really IS a Problem (or Opportunity) . . . One that HAS to be addressed.
    2. Given your mission, it would be IRRESPONSIBLE if you didn’t address it.
    3. The way you’re going about addressing the Problem (or Opportunity) is reasonsble, sensible, responsible.
    4. If you’re proposing a course of action that will HURT some interests, it’s NOT because you’re not listening; it’s NOT because you don’t care; it’s because there is a Problem (or Opportunity) that just HAS to be addressed . . . etc.

This IS achievable!  Involving everyone is not only NOT achievable, it wouldn’t necessarily be helpful!

Although saying it’s “achievable” isn’t the same as saying that it’s easy.  To the contrary.  It’s a challenge. . . A challenge that requires you to get creative in focusing on communicating very specific concepts to specific PAIs.

In this post, we’d like to help give you some guidance on how to creatively and effectively communicate, inform, and educate your public on a shoestring budget applying the list of DOs and DON’Ts we covered in Brownbag #64.

    1. In general, avoid holding public meetings.  Nine times out ten you have less costly Citizen Participation Techniques at your disposal (in terms of staff-hours spent per PAI reached).
    2. Use what we call CP Technique #16A: Using Existing Clubs, Civic Groups, and Other Organizations
      • If you feel that some sort of a Meeting WOULD be a good vehicle to communicate with a particular set of PAIs, consider using OTHER people’s meetings to reach them (rather than holding your own).
      • ​There are dozens of groups, associations, clubs, institutions, etc. who meet regularly anbd often have trouble coming up with a topic of interest, and as a result, are likely to be glad to give you a few minutes on their agenda.
      • When CP Technique #16A is used wisely, it creates — and takes advantage of — symbiosis: they help you inform and educate your work’s PAIs, you help them by offering a topic of interest for their meeting.  Neither party is taking advantage of the other; neither is doing the other a favor.  It helps both you and them meet their own needs.
    3. The same suggestion goes for the situation where you feel that a brochure, pamphlet, flyer, etc. (a piece of writing would best communicate a particular issue to better inform/educate your PAIs).
      • Consider using what we call CP Technique #16B: Inserting your write-up into EXISTING Newsletters or Trade Publications that your target PAIs regularly read.
      • When this tool is deployed successfully, it allows its users to reach audiences that their own brochure would never have reached.  And, it’s cheap!  The “existing” publication does all the time-consuming work (mailing lists, publication, etc.), while you help by providing them (often much needed) material.

You’ll find that these two specific “nitty-gritty” suggestions are consistent with the more “big-picture” DOs and DON’Ts we shared with you during the Brownbag presentation:

  • You’re going out of your way to NOT waste people’s time… That you’re working hard to NOT ask people to donate their scarcest resource of “free time.”  After all, they’re attending a meeting of their organization, one they were going to attend whether you were on the agenda or not​​.


  • By going on THEIR turf (THEIR meeting, THEIR newsletter, etc.) your interaction will be less intimidating than if you asked them to come to YOUR turf.
    • One of the consequences of this: The people who hear your presentation — on their turf, as an add-on to the group’s regular agenda — behave differently from the way the very same people behave when they show up at YOUR meeting.
      • When the material is shared at THEIR meeting, on THEIR turf, they will hear you out.  They listen.  They ask questions.  They discuss the issues.
      • The SAME material presented at YOUR meeting, on YOUR turf will cause the SAME people to behave very differently.
      • They are NOT likely to hear you out.  They ARE more likely to posture, grand-stand, etc.
    • A similar psychologcial shift is likely to be at work when you manage to get your written materials into THEIR publication(s), versus communicating the SAME content via YOUR brochure.