It takes knowledge to build effective new habits of engaging the public. Consensus offers custom consulting services to help municipalities move beyond the public hearing.
Elected officials, government staff, and technical consultants recognize that people in our communities want to be heard about issues that concern them. And we understand that more participative processes can lead to better decisions. Sounds like a win-win. Yet this understanding does not always result in constructive public engagement. Many issues in our communities are characterized by conflict because individuals bring vastly different perspectives on the role and reach of government. Our standard model for engagement – the public meeting – often simply highlights these conflicts and leaves everyone as frustrated as when they came in the door, if they come at all.
Consensus provides assistance to municipalities who seek to move beyond the public hearing model. For example, we helped the Wyandotte County legislative delegation reshape its annual town hall meetings. We helped Mayor Mark Holland with his “listening tour” with meeting design and training facilitators to help groups decide how to spend a $12 million windfall. When Roeland Park faced the loss of one in seven dollars in its general fund, we worked with local leaders to switch to small-group discussions. Those meetings asked citizens to agree on the right balance between raising taxes and cutting services. More recently, we worked with Kansas legislators on the Kansas Civility Project, an effort to break down partisan barriers.
If you are struggling to make your public meetings more productive or want to move beyond the public meeting to engage with your community in more thoughtful ways, contact Consensus for custom solutions.