On May 20, members of Northampton’s Best Practices Committee held a morning workshop to evaluate input from their May 13 public forum. One of the exercises at the forum invited citizens to write comments about major city issues on large sheets of paper (see pictures below). Much of the workshop was devoted to determining how to digest this information. The ultimate goal is to improve city decision-making and tap public opinion more effectively.
Here is a 57-minute Google video of the workshop. The sound starts out a little muddy but soon gets better:
We found the following 6-minute excerpt from the workshop to be especially interesting. The committee members discuss the controversial decision-making process involving the downtown Hilton Garden Inn hotel. Some frustration with local media is expressed–especially with the Daily Hampshire Gazette–for not giving the matter enough coverage early on. Towards the end of this segment, Jason Heffner, the facilitator of the May 13 forum, refers to a “Best Practices Development Worksheet” that he holds in his hand. This worksheet has spaces to describe a particular political issue, the constituencies involved, the government actors involved, and other parameters of the decision-making process.
Here are pictures of public comments written at the May 13 forum:
Best Practices: Pictures and Video from the May 13 Public Forum
Inviting written comments was a good way to let a large number of
people express themselves on a wide array of subjects in a relatively
short period of time. This and other facilitation techniques at the
forum might be useful in other kinds of public meetings as well. The
conversation continues at the Best Practices Google Group, open to all.