This class provided the opportunity to pull together the information and skills learned from previous courses and professional experience into one package. In earlier classes, we evaluated, analyzed and created visual, auditory and written messages encouraging the message receiver to take action in some way. What I learned early in my professional career is effective and lasting behavior change doesn’t occur without an emphasis on self-efficacy and self-determination, the individual components of social capital. When programs are designed starting with the people they serve, the outcomes are better.
In When the Target Population Calls the Shots, Prochaska & DiClemente’s transtheoretical stages of change model and the Principles of Family Support were used to develop pro-social materials, activities, curricula, and training for a statewide preschool nutrition education program.
Preschool teachers, family support workers, nutritionists and parents from programs around the state were involved in developing, user-testing and refining the program. Parts of the project continue to be used in programs, although specific funding was time-limited.
In Square Pegs and Round Holes, I took a look at the challenges government agencies can experience in matching policy to people, especially when legislation requires a quick implementation timeframe.
Agencies on the whole have significant barriers in creating opportunities for authentic citizen engagement. When agencies are tasked with short timeframes, upfront citizen involvement in policy and program design takes a backseat. The results are then less than optimal.
The final project for this class was to choose 2-3 original professional work products and conduct market testing to inform needed revisions. Earlier, I had explored the missing “process” link between legislation and government agency implementation from the point of view of a civil servant. I now wanted to develop a deeper understanding of the citizen’s perspective and see how their perspective would inform the work I had completed in COMSTRAT 564.
In mid-February, I conducted a 2-hour focus group to dig a little deeper into:
- Where people see opportunities and gaps for civic participation,
- What current communication tools and strategies they see helping or hindering participation, and
- What barriers and supports impact participation.
Civic Engagement – A Citizen’s Perspective details the approach, findings and subsequent revisions to two original products. In addition to testing what I learned in earlier work, I also wanted to build a case for the importance of participatory research. Respectful, authentic opportunities to help inform policies and programs that most deeply impact people is critical to successful outcomes. How people are included in the development process matters. Activities should be more than just table-top discussion. Participation should be thoughtfully supported to ensure all people have opportunities to express themselves in a variety of ways.
Response to the focus group was positive, with participants commenting they enjoyed the activities, the information provided, and the chance to meet other people. They also suggested lengthening the focus group to a longer afternoon, so it seems there is some interest in learning citizen advocacy skills and tactics. The key take away, though, is that slower-paced opportunities to connect and reflect with one another continues to be a powerful method of citizen engagement. Feedback
Please click here to review this work.