To be successful, Wikiplanning based projects must educate, gather input and build consensus from a larger audience of participants then would be possible with the more commonly used public meeting format. We must also involve a wider range demographically; reaching out in such a way to involve the often less heard from groups of minority members, seniors, the disabled, and the economically disadvantaged
The internet-based anywhere/anytime conversational form that Wikiplanning uses, allows for these major advantages, but only when the citizenry can be effectively brought to the table. Although participation is far easier with Wikiplanning (and performed from the comforts of ones home), the final decision whether or not to participate in the future planning of their communities always remains with the individual. They must see their participation as potentially helping to build a better and livelier community. For this reason, Wikiplanning mounts an aggressive outreach campaign for every project, ensuring the highest level of participation possible. This is the Invitation Phase, and here are some of the primary strategies we employ.
Close Encounters of the First Kind: The very best invitations come from someone we know. Therefore, we begin by approaching the principal stakeholders that have most likely collected email addresses for their own use. These include elected leaders, community foundations and local organizations (YMCA, Library, HOA's), as well as prominent local businesses. If you've collected local emails, we want to speak with you.
Once identified, Wikiplanning contacts these folks; initially by phone or email, and often times, personally visits those deemed important to the project. The project is explained to these stakeholders at length; encouraging them to forward our invitation to their cached emails. There are also promotional sponsorship opportunities for local businesses wishing to participate at a more personal level.
Close Encounters of the Second Kind: Wikiplanning contacts all pertinent local media (local cable TV, Radio Stations, Newspapers, and Shoppers etc.), with prepared media-kits, enlisting their help in getting the message out. Also, online notices will be placed on client, agency or foundation websites, as available.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Wikiplanning implements a printed invitation campaign. Although there are many potential delivery methods, some of the more commonly used are ...mailed with water bills, flagging of trash cans at collection time or left in mailboxes in target neighborhoods. Counter displays in retail businesses, and banners at key project sites or municipal buildings and community centers offer more options.
In cooperation with the client, Wikiplanning chooses which mix of strategies offer the best chance of reaching the widest audience possible and with the best impact to build participation. In all cases, the invitations to participate would make it very clear at even the most casual inspection that this is an important opportunity to be heard in the planning for the future of the communities in which they live, and that their opinions matter!