SEDL Southwest Educational Development Laboratory
  Building Support for Better Schools
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step five: Recruit Participants


Finding the Right Person

While planning a local multicultural festival, a committee member recalled that members of the Asian community did not participate the previous year. After making several phone calls, she located a leader in the Asian community well suited to help with recruitment. As a result, the Asian community was the largest group participating in the festival's parade.

Recruitment can make or break the success of any community forum or public discussion. Here are some strategies from experienced organizers worth considering.

Make Personal Contact

Enlist community members who are respected and valued in the community to help promote a public forum by word-of-mouth. One of the best recruiters might be a local parent who is well known and liked by the parents of children who attend a neighborhood school. Another good source is a local minister or priest who can recruit his or her congregation. Post a list of neighborhood recruiters with the most up-to-date contact information so that you can call on them when necessary.

Let People Know What to Expect

It's important to explain what you hope to accomplish during the discussion. Do you want ideas from the community on how to improve schools? Do you want feedback on whether parents think a proposed school improvement effort is a good idea? Do you want to measure parents' attitudes about public schools? Participants will want to know what their role is during the discussion. This will help them decide whether it's worth their time.

Identify the Best Media Sources

Say What You Mean

One organizer in Oklahoma told SEDL that the phrase "Study Circle" conjured up images for unknowing participants of studying and doing homework. Consequently, some people didn't attend. Next time, the organizer will use different wording to more clearly convey what's expected of participants.

Local community leaders are best equipped to help organizers identify print, radio and television outlets with target audiences of ethnic and minority groups. Consider asking a Spanish-speaking radio or television station to run public service announcements promoting a community forum. Ask the editor of a neighborhood newspaper designed for African-American or Asian readers to consider running an article or inserting a flier in the newspaper. Approach the publisher of a free community newsletter to help spread the word about an upcoming event.

Place Fiers Throughout the Community

Survey community leaders and find out where parents, community members and others congregate. Go there. Leaflet restaurants, churches, temples, restaurants, neighborhood grocery stores, mini-marts, billboards, popular national discount chains, laundromats, community centers, farmers' markets and other locations. Pass out fliers at local festivals celebrating Diez y Seis de Septiembre, Juneteenth, Chinese New Year and other cultural and ethnic holidays.

How to Promote the Meeting

Invite minority groups to help design materials

Community outreach staff who work with religious groups, human service agencies or schools can provide pointers on creating promotional fliers, newsletters or brochures. Materials should also be in forms other than print for those who cannot read or write. Ideas include videos, public service announcements or word-of-mouth invitations.

Ask community leaders for help with language

Ask leaders for advice on the best way to word fliers, brochures or newsletters for a specific audience.

Translate materials in different languages

If you are recruiting members of a Vietnamese-speaking community, print fliers in Vietnamese. If you are recruiting Native Americans, print materials in their languages. Simple, right? Well, not always. Some ethnic groups have more than one language. For example, there are more than 500 Native American languages. Since many indigenous languages are not written, promoting recruitment by word-of-mouth instead of print form may need to be considered. Be aware of the different languages and dialects in your community.

Keep it simple

If a sixth grader can't understand what you've written, it's too complicated. Avoid education jargon.

Put It in Your Community's Words

One community leader, who works for the Red Cross and raises awareness among Native Americans about AIDS, likens community forums to "talking circles," a Native American custom. This custom involves members of a group passing a talking stick from one person to the next. Whoever holds the stick, speaks. Each person takes a turn sharing their thoughts. The community leader says it's an effective way to involve everyone in the conversation.

  Building Support for Better Schools
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