The ski hill in my town is a local amenity as well as a tourist attraction. While the locals love skiing they also love to complain. When riding the chairlift or in the bar, I often hear about how the mountain could improve things and how they should appreciate local pass holders more. I can’t say who is right or wrong, however I see an opportunity for community engagement by the company who owns the resort.
Coincidentally, I was drinking a beer next to the owner last week. The topic of engaging the community came up and he invited me to a public meeting where I would see exactly how they are doing this. The subject was a proposed golf course at the base of the ski resort. Several people in town are concerned, mostly due to it’s location in the town’s watershed. While the situation is quite interesting, this blog entry is about process.
Several things last night led me to believe that the company could do well to expand its learning on the subject of engagement. Here are a few:
- meeting time was 6:30pm – exactly when you should be dining with your family.
- 2.5 hours of non-stop talking (8 speakers) from the podium
- expert vs layperson set-up
- no break, no coffee, no Q&A between speakers
- no microphones provided to the floor during the question period
- people cut off from sharing information that was not in the form of a question
Engagement to me requires listening, reflecting, and empowering everyone to participate. This can take many forms including the following examples:
- structuring sessions that allow for dialogue
- fostering peer to peer information sharing
- discussions between sets of speakers
- time for re-energizing
- providing day care to encourage more participation
From my experience last night, I would argue the design of the meeting was more of a PR approach. I teach a workshop on how to run more participatory, knowledge sharing events (such as public meetings), perhaps I will put them on my contact list for the spring 🙂