Diverse participation is a conscious result of recruiting efforts.
Bringing together large, diverse numbers of people is often critical to the success of public participation.
Participation is more likely to benefit the community as a whole when it involves a broad cross-section of the community. And interactions will be more lively and rewarding when there is a diverse mix of participants. In this case, diversity not only means demographic diversity, but also diversity of views, perspectives, backgrounds and experiences.
Diverse participation is a conscious result of recruiting efforts. Valuable recruitment skills to assist in encouraging diversity include mapping the community, creating recruitment plans and conducting one-on-one interviews.
There are many ways for participation leaders to map the community or population with which they are working. The most basic and proven approach is simply to list the different networks and groups to which people belong.
Using an actual geographic map can be helpful for learning and remembering where people live, work, study, worship, and play. A map of social media connections can help organizers find the people who connect with, are trusted by, and curate information for others.
All kinds of networks and groups could be represented in such a map, including but not limited to: schools, businesses, faith congregations, service clubs, sports teams, hospitals, immigrant service organizations, fire stations, colleges and universities, restaurants and coffee shops, youth groups, senior citizens’ groups, grocery stores, libraries, newspapers and radio stations, police or sheriff’s departments, unions, newspapers and other media organizations, community organizing groups, neighborhood or homeowners associations, laundromats, barbershops and hair salons, political parties, social service agencies and bookstores.
These lists can be made graphically interesting. For example, the figure below provides an example of a neighborhood-based recruitment map. It also shows that mapping need not be complicated.
Creating a recruitment map can be a participatory process in itself. As a planning activity, it can help coalition members understand one another better and produce a tangible asset they can use in other contexts.
In fact, these maps and lists could be considered rare public resources. In cities like Decatur, Georgia, participation leaders have taken their map to other community meetings, used it as part of their presentation about their engagement process, and invited people to add new organizations and networks to it.
To capitalize on the recruitment potential of a diverse organizing coalition and a growing map of networks, participation leaders need a simple, coherent plan for inviting people to engage.
Everyday Democracy suggests five basic steps for participant recruitment:
The figures below illustrate some of the thinking that can go into a recruitment plan. The first shows how participation leaders may begin to think about target percentages for various demographic groups. The second depicts the challenge of the recruitment ‘funnel,’ which suggests that only a percentage of those recruited will actually decide to participate. Therefore, participation leaders must conduct wider outreach to meet their recruitment goals. (These figures and the figure above were created by Jon Abercrombie of Common Focus.)
One of the most versatile recruitment skills was first developed and refined by community organizers decades ago: the one-on-one interview.
The idea is to create a safer space for people to share their concerns and talk about their interests, and to do so in a way that encourages them to take public action. AmeriCorps Vista and Campus Compact have developed some tried-and-true questions for one-on-one interviews:
Read other blogs in this series:
Part 2: Building Coalitions and Networks
Portions of this post were excerpted with permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., from Public Participation for 21st Century Democracy by Tina Nabatchi and Matt Leighninger. Copyright© 2015 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. All rights reserved. This book is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.