Engaging Citizens

Given the polarization of our elected officials in the U.S. today, the engagement of ordinary, unaffiliated citizens is more important than ever before. The political system is stuck, incapable of deliberating options for the common good. The key to breaking the deadlock is to find methods to determine the collective voice of the citizens and make that so articulate that the elected. AmericaSpeaks has done just that with our 21st Century Town Meetings®. We convene thousands of people simultaneously in one location or across multiple locations.

The 21st Century Town Meetings are powerful and engaging meetings that articulate the group’s priorities on critical organization, local, state or national policies.

Our unique process combines neutral materials with a well-crafted program where people deliberate and vote on what matters most to them.

Participants sit at tables of eight to ten with a trained facilitator. They discuss a series of questions that build to create a set of collective priorities by the end of the meeting. Participatory technology is utilized to make sure every voice in the room is heard:

  • A computer on every tables serves as “electronic flipcharts” to record general table agreements;
  • The table agreements are  instantly transmitted to a “Theme Team”, which reads all the entries to identify the strongest themes.  These overarching themes are displayed are quickly presented to all the participants;
  • Individuals use their individual voting keypads to vote on what they believe are the most important priorities.

The 21st Century Town Meeting effectively restores the balance of the “political playing field” by engaging hundreds or thousands of ordinary, unaffiliated citizens, quickly summarizing their general agreements and priorities, and widely disseminating the results through media coverage.

This meeting methodology has been conducted on issues from rebuilding Ground Zero in NYC to childhood obesity, to community planning in Owensboro, KY to balancing the nations’ budget. Read about the rest of our projects.

Virtual Tables

For those who can’t attend in person, virtual discussion tables are often a great addition. This process engages people from their home computer using webcasts, online chats, keypad polling and facilitated discussions with others via conference call. They are connected to the main site and their results are aggregated with data from the live sites.

Community Conversations

21st Century Town Meeting can also be augmented with Community Conversations – before or after the Town Meeting. Community Conversations are volunteer led events where small groups meet face to face to deliberate the issues – AmericaSpeaks provides the materials for the host and for the participants.

Conversations can take place in businesses, schools, libraries, places of worship, community centers, homes, or anywhere else a group chooses to meet. They may be as small as 8 people or as large as several hundred.

For more information on the 21st Century Town Meeting, request our services.