During a pitch for a broadband community visioning engagement (similar to work we've done in Kansas City before and after the Google Fiber launch), the city project team asked how we handle what we call "challenger" voices. These are individuals within the community who have alternative perspectives about community issues. They challenge commonly-held perspectives. They can effectively slow and (ideally) improve the direction of popular opinion.
A positive outcome can come about when challenger voices are effectively embraced and incorporated into community visioning.
If not, it's easy for them to challenge for the sake of challenging without realizing any benefits from the energy required for countering popular opinions.
How to Maximize the Benefits of Challenger Voices in Community Visioning
There are multiple ways to produce positive results from overtly inviting challenger voices into community visioning:
- Ask them to organize and articulate their thoughts in writing to share them more broadly.
- Invite challengers to raise their issues in a private setting. Also give them an insider's view or understanding of the community issue under consideration.
- Request challengers turn their objections into recommended solutions (individually or as a group). This helps even if the recommendations only apply to certain elements of the overall opportunity.
- Develop defined times and venues throughout the development process where the challenger voices are put front and center to share their perspectives.
- Create "jobs" for them. As you develop the plan for a community initiative, identify varied roles where people with contrary perspectives can most effectively help move things forward.
- Introduce challengers to others with equally passionate perspectives that don't agree with them and let them duke it out mentally.
There may certainly be other options for involving challenger voices. These are all collaboration strategies we have used and have worked to produce successful results. Granted, they haven't always been successful, but if challengers have open minds and are honest in their willingness to positively participate, they are tremendous in improving community visioning and the direction the community pursues. – Mike Brown
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