Great question, Mark.
My approach has been to provide as many channels as possible to receive involvement. So, we have community meetings, but we also have a phone line for voice and text comments; we have online live chats and web forums (fora); we have “meetings in a box,” where smaller groups (churches, workplaces, etc.) can host their own community meeting at a convenient time for their members.
But I also have worked hard (as others have on this thread) to carefully craft and facilitate meaningful community dialogue. You want folks with diverse levels of shyness or extroversion to feel comfortable contributing, so you have small and large group discussions that are carefully designed and managed to ensure everyone has a way to participate in both. You can acquire the facilitation skills yourself or bring in other neutral facilitators.
Feel free to chat with me more about this.
Community Engagement Consultant
City of Austin, TX
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