Whether the topic is how schools should work or what should be in the local budget, Vermonters want their voices to be heard. And residents have a lot to contribute, not only with their input and ideas but with their volunteer time and willingness to work together to solve problems. In a variety of ways, people want to be engaged.
Vermont has a long history of public engagement. For one thing, Vermont towns have been holding town and school meetings for hundreds of years. Vermonters also engage in ways that are less formal but equally significant: working with teachers to help their kids, volunteering on projects to improve their communities, and more recently, connecting online with neighbors in order to share ideas and address local problems. This long tradition of engagement gives the state a leg up on other places: while local democracy in Vermont, as in most places, has room for improvement, Vermonters aren’t starting from scratch.
But while Vermonters may feel that they want to engage, it is also clear that many of the conventional opportunities for engagement aren’t working so well.
This guide is intended to help Vermonters decide what kinds of engagement they want. It is also designed to help Vermonters plan for an overall system for engagement that features those opportunities—and is supported by local governments, school systems, businesses, faith communities, other organizations and by citizens themselves.
This guide was created by Public Agenda with support from the Innovations and Collaborations program at the Vermont Community Foundation.