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  Building Support for Better Schools
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step seven: Follow-up with Participants

Let's fast forward for a moment. Here's the scenario:
Your community forum was a success. You saw high participation from parents, community members, business leaders and others from different minority and socioeconomic backgrounds. The event was well-promoted across the community—in churches, local restaurants, corner grocery stores and on local radio stations. Participants were engaged in the conversation because the discussion focused on the school issues that mattered most to them. All in all, it was a successful event. Your work is done.

Well, not quite.

There is one more critical step and it's often the one that is overlooked the most.

Participants who attended the discussion—and even those who could not—want information explaining what will happen next. They want to know what impact the discussion will have on improving public schools or how it will affect their child's education. They want to know that their opinion is not only valued but that the appropriate leaders are responding to their concerns.

Call or meet one-on-one with community and neighborhood groups who helped organize the event. Share next steps with leaders of culturally diverse organizations who can then share the information with their members. Write articles for school newsletters or community newspapers that summarize what issues were discussed and highlight next steps. Next steps might include an action plan, a report to the school board or intensive committee work.

Credibility is very important. These groups have been exploited and lied to too much. You need to earn their trust and treat them with respect. Do not promise more than you can deliver. Always follow through on what you promised. - A minister who specializes in community outreachYou can also reinforce how much involvement is valued by demonstrating how you will build upon the issues raised by parents and community members in future meetings. When that follow-up discussion does occur, effective facilitators start the meeting by summarizing the key issues raised in the previous meeting and set clear goals that build upon those issues rather than cover old ground. And, if there is to be another meeting, make sure that all participants have any needed information before they leave.

When this work is done well, it's more likely that future community meetings will attract broader interest and deeper commitment from participants.

  Building Support for Better Schools
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