Transforming public hearings into events

Building from last week's post about the Community Preservation Coalition's conference session on outreach, I offer the challenge to CPCs to transform your public hearing into an EVENT - An event that people in your community will be interested in participating in. Events can generate positive vibes about your CPA program and give the CPC a stronger support base.  The CPC can also benefit from these events by encouraging feedback and ideas from participants.

One simple ingredient to transforming your public hearing into an event is to offer food and beverages.   You might even be able to get a local restaurant to donate sandwiches and waters.  Or, a CPC can also use its administrative budget to purchase refreshments.

Other ways to transform your public hearing into something that can attract more community members is to offer something interesting in addition to the traditional public hearing.  You can view the public hearing as one portion of your event rather than the whole thing . . . here are some specific ideas:

  • CPA Breakfast:  Hold a breakfast at a function room in a local restaurant and invite all town officials and past CPA fund recipients.
  • Open House: Invite all past CPA fund recipients to display their projects - each project could be set up with a table for displaying photographs, drawings, or other information about their CPA project.
  • Guest Speaker: Invite a guest speaker such as one of your state representatives or a representative from an organization (e.g., Community Preservation Coalition, regional land trust, Trustees of Reservations, Habitat for Humanity chapter, Preservation Massachusetts, Massachusetts Housing Partnership, to name just a few ideas).
  • Planning Workshop: Hold a participatory workshop where participants break out in to small discussion groups as a lead in to your public hearing; JM Goldson facilitates many such workshops by providing participants with discussion group exercises and group polling to identify preferences.

A few other ideas for events that could be separate from your annual public hearing:  an open house or bus tour for past-funded CPA projects; ground breaking and ribbon cutting ceremonies for CPA projects; or celebrating other milestones of a CPA project.  For example, in Bridgewater next week they will be celebrating the installation of the new kiosk in front of the newly restored Town Hall (a CPA-funded project) and have invited the media and town officials to participate in this milestone celebration.

Unrelated to events, but certainly related to improving outreach, have you considered establishing a facebook page for your CPA program?  Check out Bridgewater's new facebook page - you can link to it through Bridgewater's CPA website:  http://www.bridgewatercommunitypreservation.org/index.html