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Community participation resources

Peter Guttchen prepared a list of resources he has used to support NENA's efforts to improve the quality of life in our
neighborhood and involve community members in important community projects.


Across the country public agencies and community groups, such as neighborhood associations, are facing
challenges as they work to develop and implement sustainable solutions to controversial and vexing
problems tied to the economy, growth management, health care, the environment, housing, and
education. After many requests for more information on community participation techniques, I thought
I'd prepare a list of links to resources that I’ve found helpful in discovering what's going on in this rapidly
growing field. I think learning more about this evolving "community of practice" is key to helping
communities like ours make sustainable, actionable decisions about our future that reflect our values,
build trust, and get implemented in a collaborative, timely and efficient way.

You'll notice that I included a link to the City of Eugene, OR. I included them because they have recently
completed what I found to be a compelling comprehensive review of their neighborhood programs. I
think their review of their neighborhood services could be of value to neighborhood associations in our
community and to local and regional public agencies as they work to strengthen their relationships with
neighborhoods and other community groups.

The list of resources below is by no means comprehensive, but I found these organizations as excellent
places to begin learning more:
I'd encourage you to explore their website - especially some of their Practitioner tools that include core values and ethics for public participation, a public participation toolbox, etc. You'll find links to these tools and resources from their home page.
The NCDD director just recently published an article in "Yes" magazine called "Upgrading the Way we Do Politics" - which addresses what some have come to call the "Town Brawls" on health care reform. At the
end of the article is a list of links to resources on how to improve the way public agencies do community involvement.
An organization "building a learning community comprised of grantmakers who will invest time and resources in building their own knowledge and sharing knowledge with others about ways to strengthen democratic practice in communities across the nation."
This group has developed a "design-based, accelerated, collaborative project management system that
harnesses the talents and energies of all interested parties to create and support a feasible plan." They
are headquartered in Portland, OR - and offer frequent trainings around the country. They have a training in Portland in October this year. I've included them because I think their approach - or portions of their approach - can be very effective in soliciting feedback from - and involving community members in -designing and supporting the implementation of important and potentially controversial projects.
As I mentioned above, Eugene has recently completed a report assessing the effectiveness of their neighborhood programs that includes recommendations on how to improve them. It includes profiles of best practices from 10 communities including Vancouver, Tacoma and Bellevue WA. The report can be found at Eugene Neighborhood Services Assessment. The report recommends Eugene consider developing Neighborhood Action Plans - an approach that might work well in Olympia. Eugene has also just begun to list all land use applications on their website in a way that allows residents to pull them up by neighborhood - a very citizen and neighborhood-friendly service.

And – regardless of what approach you take to community involvement, it’s important to use plain
language. One resource you might reference to help you improve the clarity of your communication can
be found at Plain English.

As with many journeys of discovery that begin with visiting the website of one intriguing organization - I
encourage you to explore the sometimes fascinating and illuminating links to other groups and resources
you'll find if you visit the sites of the organizations listed above. Also, all of these organizations - save the
City of Eugene - offer training and professional development opportunities that may be of interest to
some of you.

Thanks for your interest. I hope you find some of this information useful and valuable. If you do, I
encourage you to forward these resources on to others who you think might also find them interesting
and helpful.

Best regards,
Peter Guttchen
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