After each event you host, it is key to continue engagement with the community by sharing results, outcomes, and updates that demonstrate how their input is influencing your collaborative process. Further, sharing information with other science and technology center professionals, scientists, policymakers, stakeholders, and the public can ensure the proposed solutions and priorities are heard and move toward action.
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Process participants are the primary audience for sharing information after each event or milestone. In selecting, framing, and presenting outcomes of a Dialogue & Deliberation effort, organizers should have a strong understanding of what information is most relevant to participants. In follow-up communications, participants should gain a clear idea of what was discussed and shared during an event and whether consensus was reached. Depending on your process’ design, this may include sharing quotes from participants’ conversations, the results of a vote or survey, or images that participants drew.
Additionally, it is important to consider how participants are best able to receive, process, and take action on the information shared. Considerations include the utility of text-heavy documents versus audiovisual media, devices that participants are likely to use to review written or visual materials, and existing communication channels used by community members, such as websites, email, social media, mailings, flyer distribution, and event tabling. Just as in the event design, it is essential to consider community needs and accessibility in follow-up communications, including what background information participants already have, what languages they speak, and what technology they have access to.
To build continued trust, organizers should support community participants, stakeholders, and partners by following up on proposed solutions and priorities. This could include formal meetings to review progress on objectives and more informal conversations over shared meals. As relationships with community partners deepen, and trust continues to build, continued community engagement—on both similar and new topics—may become more possible and productive. Opportunities for additional engagement with stakeholders or policymakers (and with the general public) may present themselves. Let participants know what steps you plan to take next, and how they can stay involved.
In many cases, you will want to share outcomes of your Dialogue & Deliberation process with more people than just your partners and participants. Once again, it will be critically important to know your audience(s), including what information is most relevant to them, what their baseline knowledge is, and how best to reach them and present the information. Depending on the topic at hand, other stakeholders you should inform may include scientific researchers, policymakers and civic leaders, business owners, or other community members. You may need to use different engagement methods or report on different outcomes for each stakeholder group you seek to engage. For example, you may decide to create a data-heavy written report to share with scientific researchers and a one-page visual summary shared at a tabling event engaging local business owners.
You may also wish to share lessons learned with colleagues at other institutions in your field. Sharing information on your project’s successes, challenges, and impacts may inspire others to use a similar process in their own communities, while also building a network of professionals who can provide mutual support. You will likely need to provide additional background information on your process for stakeholders who have not engaged in earlier events or planning meetings. You may need to share the same issue guides or other background materials that event participants received. Additionally, you may want to provide a brief explanation describing your Dialogue & Deliberation aims, design process, and stakeholder involvement.
Learn about creating a one-page report that summarizes data, findings, or recommendations: One-Page Reports (EvaluATE)
All community science efforts aim to create tangible improvements in and for communities. Dialogue & Deliberation is largely a method for gathering necessary information and perspectives to decide on a course of action, while the action itself may fall into other community science approaches, such as Civic Engagement & Policymaking or Community-led Citizen Science. Despite this, articulating opportunities for action during a Dialogue & Deliberation process is critical because it demonstrates your commitment to following through on discussions and helps build trust.
If no follow-up actions are taken after you invite engagement via your Dialogue & Deliberation process, it becomes less likely that community members will want to participate in future events. Similarly, if you take action that does not align with community priorities or take action that community members do not know about, this may erode trust.
Actions that stem from Dialogue & Deliberation processes may be taken by the community members themselves or by other stakeholders. Actions could include conducting scientific research on the topic, creating new groups or associations, or implementing new policies.