In every community, different stakeholders have different interests and priorities. The MTW agency cannot effectively balance those diverse perspectives unless it hears from and understands the needs of various groups within the community. To engage communities effectively, MTW agencies need to find ways to give diverse groups a voice.
Don’t assume that an open process is an inclusive one. Holding an open meeting does not mean that all community members know about the meeting, feel welcome, or can participate effectively. A strong community engagement process will actively seek the voices of those who may not be heard without special efforts. Look at the landscape of the community and proactively identify and engage not only those who are currently affected but those who might be served by MTW activities in the future.
Remove Physical Barriers
Provide unobstructed access to meetings, offer materials in writing, or offer opportunities to contribute input electronically or by telephone to reduce impediments for people with diverse physical abilities.
Remove Cultural and Language Barriers
Provide information in appropriate languages and consider providing an interpreter. Provide information with awareness of and sensitivity to cultural norms. Including members of diverse cultures on planning teams can help foster awareness and effective action. Be aware of holidays observed by people of different cultures and religions and avoid scheduling meetings or key deadlines on these dates.
Remove Barriers for Households with Different Logistical Needs
Identify impediments to participation and adapt accordingly. For example:
- Engage stakeholders at different times of day. Some people may be most comfortable attending meetings during daylight hours, while others may have school or job conflicts that won’t allow participation until evening hours.
- Address childcare needs. To get input from families with children, make arrangements to welcome children and keep them happy while their adult family members participate in the engagement process.
- Accommodate transportation challenges. Some stakeholders may have difficulty getting to centralized meeting venues. Consider ways to conduct outreach in diverse locations or virtually to allow easier access for stakeholders who cannot easily travel to a central facility.