Since you've gotten to know your community and the issues people care
about, the next step is finding the right people to facilitate what
can be tough conversations about how to improve public education.
The hard work of identifying facilitators grows easier as organizers
establish relationships with neighborhood groups representing different
ethnic, cultural and community interests. Approach leaders of civic,
religious or minority organizations who are respected, credible
and fair. The only agenda facilitators should carry with them to
a public forum is a strong desire to ensure that all participants
While you are meeting with community groups, agencies, churches
and cultural organizations (see Step 1: Know Your
Community), ask for referrals. Be sure to explain the facilitator's
role, time commitment and what training will be offered. Community
advocates also can advise you of any cultural or language do's and
don'ts as you recruit facilitators. Ask those who provide names
if they would consider calling the person on your behalf. This early
introduction lays the groundwork for your follow-up call.
Armed with a list of potential facilitators, contact each person
and explain who you are and who made the recommendation. Provide
background about what education issue is being discussed and why
you think this person is well suited to facilitate a community discussion.
Schedule a time to meet in person and take along an information
packet about the event and training (see Step 4:
Training Facilitators). Follow-up with a confirmation letter.
If a person is designated who has never facilitated a group, assure
them they will co-facilitate with someone they know. This will help
ease anxietyanxiety that can prompt someone to say no.
Seek out facilitators who speak languages reflective of the community,
whether it's Spanish or Vietnamese or a Native American language.
A bilingual facilitator will help put participants at ease and improve
the quality of the conversation. If a bilingual facilitator is not
available, arrange for interpreters.
Here's why this hard work pays off: parents, community members
and others are much more likely to participate if they know who
is organizing and leading the discussion. They might attend church
together on Sundays or have children enrolled in the same school
or live on the same block. Choosing the right facilitator can mean
the difference between just another school meeting and a more productive
conversation about children and learning.