Friday, October 5, 2012

Draft Proposal for a Series of Community Forums

Listen In –a series of community forums.

Proposed Motion

That the UNA organize a series of public workshops and forums on neighbourhood specific issues commencing on November 6, 2012 and running every 6-8 weeks through to May, 2013 in order to enhance and expand the democratic practice and community consultative processes of the UNA.

Explanatory Notes

Objective:  to expand and develop upon the UNA’s community engagement and public accountability in the area of emergent and longstanding issues of resident concerns.

Who: UNA Directors and Staff will participate as listeners and observers.  Community volunteers will moderate and facilitate the forum/workshop. Community residents will provide comments, direction, and input.  

What:  a series of community forums/workshops loosely organized around neighborhood specific concerns that allow for direct participation by community residents in the development of UNA policy and practices.

Why: The UNA manages the delivery of services, such as community centre programs and community services cards, with reasonable effectiveness.  However, there are a series of more direct municipal like services that, while outside of the direct authority of the UNA (i.e. community planning), are of critical importance to our constituency.  These forums and workshops will provide a direct, public, and transparent mechanism to build and enhance the UNA’s democratic reach and practice.  Information and feedback from these workshops and forums will also provide direction and support to the policies decisions taken by the UNA.

When:  Commencing November 6, 2012 and continued every six to eight weeks through to May 2013.

How: Using the device of a discussion circle in which each participant's voice is respected and dialogue, not debate, is prioritized, community direction on emergent and longstanding issues of resident concern will be solicited. 

A discussion circle involves each person having the opportunity to comment on the topic at hand.  For this to work it is important that the discussion not be a debate nor should the participants respond to other commentators critically. It is important to create an environment of respect and toleration. If there are 20-30 people in attendance we keep the discussion in the large group.  If there are more than 30 people the audience should be divided into small groups of about 5-8 people each.

A team of community volunteers will act as moderators and meeting recorders.  It will be important to have at least one Mandarin and one Korean speaking volunteer to facilitate targeted language-based discussion groups.  During the school campaign of several years ago this model was used to good effect by the UNA Schools Action Committee.

Specific Instructions (this is followed whether in the large group or the small group):
1.     Each person is asked to offer two statements related to their concerns.  Go around the room giving each person a chance to respond (the following are provided by way of example and would be adjusted to mesh with the overall topic of the specific forum).
·      Describe a current concern;
·      Describe an emergent concern.
While each person speaks a second volunteer is recording the comments on a white board or flip chart where everyone can see.
2.     There are several ways to proceed next.  My favourite is to spend a few minutes looking at the assembled comments.  Have a discussion with the audience as to whether any of these could be grouped together because they are the same or similar.   The objective is to try and create a set of grouped comments.
3.      After discussing the similarities now ask the audience members to go up to the board and put a plus sign on the group of comments that they feel best capture (1) their concerns.
4.     Review these final results.  The moderate then summarizes these concerns.
5.     The UNA Directors thank people for the contributions etc.
6.     UNA staff, in collaboration with the chair of the Governance Standing Committee prepares a report on the meeting within 7 business days of the workshop.

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