In our last post we talked about the importance of assessing your community’s readiness and resilience before determining how to move forward. Some communities are ready to collaborate, and public engagement efforts will work there relatively well. Other communities are not. A community that is clearly ready to work through difficult issues together will exhibit the following characteristics: a strong sense of community, clear vision, strong and collaborative leaders, easy flow of information, and a demonstrated ability and willingness to work through conflicts. At the opposite end of the readiness spectrum would be communities that have high levels of distrust (demonstrated through either high levels of conflict or active disengagement), few shared values or interests, and leaders who behave in a highly partisan manner.
Most communities, of course, fall somewhere in between these two extremes. Determining where your community falls on this “readiness spectrum” will help you identify the capabilities that can be engaged and those that need to be built, and to identify likely bumps in the road. This kind of assessment and planning will in turn help you to figure out how to foster the civility and respect that is needed for effective dialogue, to provide needed information, and to build an understanding of how government structures work and their boundaries.
If you are interested in systematically assessing your community’s resilience in the face of conflict and its readiness for productive collaboration, we have developed a workbook that will help you do so. For more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.