Make sure you set aside some quality time to focus on what you really want to know from the community you’re engaging. Your goal is to make questions simple, inclusive, and relevant to the experience of residents. Here’s a guide to crafting great questions (PDF ↓).
New Orleans, Louisiana
The question “Who do you Love,” might not jump out as having anything to do with reporting, but it does. When the Listening Post New Orleans project wanted to grow participation, they decided to literally plant questions around the city and see what came back at them. At first glance, asking obvious news related questions seemed like the way to go. “How are you impacted by policing?” “What does affordable housing mean to you?” or “How has New Orleans recovered from Katrina?” to name a few. But not everyone is engaged by the news, at least not in overt ways. So the project settled on some questions anybody might be drawn to answer, including “Why are you Mad?” “Who do you Love?” and “What’s Missing in New Orleans?”. The team put those on campaign signs with a phone number to text answers to, and placed them all over the city.
One of the many responses that were texted in simply had the name “Mary.” The participant then got an SMS invitation to stay involved in the project, and that they’d get news and questions every month related to life in the city. And while that initial impulse to participate was initiated by a more emotional prompt, this person began getting and sharing news with the Listening Post about everything from public transit, to affordable housing, to taxes.