We had a record turnout today (7 + one who came later), which perhaps contributed to some excellent deliberation and healthy arguments. Thanks to Scott Leopold and Stephanie Stuart for dropping by and joining with us. I cannot possibly do justice to the breadth topics that we covered, nor even the depth to which we took some of them. So I ask you who attended to fill in with your own recollections.
As you might imagine, things started a little slow, making introductions, shooting the breeze, thinking about what to order, etc. I don’t know how others felt, but I am extremely glad we did not have an official agenda – it was a very organic conversation, starting off with football (Illinois is playing Ohio this week? Scott is somewhat of a Ohio fan, btw), trick-or-treeting and politics.
We sauntered over to educational topics and Scott had an opportunity to share some of the questions they are thinking of asking at tomorrow’s Futures Conference. Throughout our gathering, we discussed various questions, the possible weaknesses of the way they were phrased or how they might tend to lead towards a particular kind of answer. One the questions highlights a choice of two options among three, and the question came up “Why only two?”, which lead to several tangential questions of how these things are interpreted and how there need not only be two answers. We also covered ground on who all is being represented and the need to go and form bridges (ie, build trust) with different strata in our community (the Houlihans gathering today was all white). Scott mentioned his plan of attack, “Land, Sea and Air”, indicating (I believe) that they are trying all forms of communication they can think of; they seem to have a pretty extensive list. One possible missing thing is riding around town with a local non-VIP, or at least someone who has a different perspective altogether (a member of the African American or Latino community?). There was also a little talk about the Fallon Research group and how they are targeting focus groups for qualitative data collection. We had a bit of back and forth (and disagreement) about the best ways to go about getting that kind of data, and whether or not the results of Fallon’s work will be truly representative of the entire community. Stephanie confirmed that the focus group candidates are 100% random, which makes it a bit more strange that I was called.
In my opinion, I am very thankful that Scott was there, representing the Public Engagement firm to a bunch of tax-paying citizens. Over and above that, I am extremely glad we had various perspectives represented at the table and that folks were willing to put their thoughts on the table despite (or in spite of? *grin*) being different. We had some of the best open discussion we have had in a long while. So thanks to everyone who participated.
One person mentioned that Wednesdays are very hard, so maybe we will schedule a Thursday here and there. Keep your eyes open. 🙂
Again, please help me fill in the gaps (you who were there).