Engaging Your Community: Use Information Wisely
While we were conducting the research for our recent study, Don't Count Us Out, members of the public told us that an abundance of technical information can be jarring and confusing, and that they are actually quite skeptical about the accuracy of statistics and measurements. When providing information for a group of people to help them deliberate an issue, it's crucial to weigh the amount, type and timing of that information:
Provide the right type and amount of information at the right time
It is helpful to provide people with carefully selected, essential, nonpartisan information up front in order to help them deliberate more effectively, but it is equally important to avoid overloading people with a "data dump." Concise and thoughtfully presented information is useful, but too much all at once can result in people feeling overwhelmed. It plays to the experts in the room while disempowering the regular citizens. In fact, too much information may actually erode public trust instead of augment it.
Instead, beyond a few salient essentials, people should themselves determine, through their deliberations, the information that will allow them to move deeper into an issue. Enabling people to better determine their informational needs is one of the most important purposes and outcomes of public engagement.
This blog post is part of our series on core principles for effective public engagement.
Read earlier principles of public engagement. If you have any questions, just ask, either here, on our Facebook page, via Twitter or email Allison Rizzolo.
If you are looking for tools for engagement, including information about our Choicework guides and their corresponding videos, as well as case studies in public engagement, check out the public engagement section of this website.
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