Stay in touch with your citizen networks. Make it a priority to provide them with information on the topics they said matter most. Providing feedback to your participants is a key step in building trust and sustaining a conversation. The community needs to see that their contributions have impact.
This is an ongoing process! Every time you set out to inform and engage your community, try to incorporate something you learned from the previous attempt. The best way to make sure you are improving is to check in with the community to be sure you are doing right by them. Put out a call to communities and project participants every few months asking them what’s on their mind. Keep a running list of topics and questions that the community shares with you, and work those into your project. Let the community know when you use one of their ideas. And keep trying new and creative ways to engage offline with residents first, before trying to communicate with them online.
As part of it’s reporting on incarceration rates in Louisiana, the Listening Post project in New Orleans partnered with a youth media organization, Re-Think, to brainstorm community questions around the query, “What do jails and prisons do?” Some of the workshopped questions included, “How do we begin to heal and transform trauma violence in our communities? Would you invest in this community? Why and How? Why does the mass media criminalize black youth?” Students then brainstormed where in the community they would plant these questions. If you engage the right people, they will help you expand the conversation organically.