After doing a lot of preliminary research about the Hood River Forest Collaborative, our partnership group brainstormed a number of potential future projects between Lewis and Clark’s 295 students and the Collaborative. We then discussed these ideas over a ~40 minute Zoom call with Andrew Spaeth, who is the public facilitator for the Collaborative. In addition, he also had a number of his own ideas for potential projects, many of which had significant overlap with the brainstorming we did earlier. Potential projects broadly include:
- Working to develop an online engagement platform
- Professionalizing communication platforms (email lists, website, social media presence)
- Increase outreach through a series of public events/speakers
- Facilitated relationship building between opposing groups/viewpoints already within the Collaborative (along the lines of Narrative 4)
Of these projects, I am currently choosing to focus on increasing outreach through a series of public events and/or speakers. When talking with Andrew it seemed like there was already a lot of interest in developing this idea, and I think it is something that future 295 students could be incredibly successful with. Diversifying the outreach of the Collaborative also has the potential to greatly diversify the stakeholders who choose to participate and to give new and unique voices to people who may have otherwise avoided the traditional Collaborative meetings. In brainstorming this idea, I have divided it into 3 separate sections relating to different aspects of successful engagement.
Analyzing the “What” Aspect
Projects related to the “What” of engagement try to address issues of discourse in a “post-truth” climate, where everyone has their own deep set beliefs about fundamental truths and common ground is increasingly hard to find. Thus, discourse is incredibly difficult as people argue about even the most basic ideas of what they are trying to get to the bottom of. While developing public speaker events may not directly address these issues, they would potentially create a space for people to listen and engage with new viewpoints in a thoughtful manner. This could provide a common ground 0f theoretical knowledge for many of the participants in the Collaborative, potentially reducing these issues of debating baseline facts that’s so common in a post-truth world.
Analyzing the “Who” Aspect
When facilitating engagement, it is incredibly important to pay attention to who you are engaging and the diversity of voices at the table. In our initial interview, Andrew acknowledge the struggle that the Collaborative has faced in getting new voices to participate in the traditional monthly meetup. Creating unique public speaker events could provide many previously ignored stakeholders throughout the community with events that may be more interesting to them and less intimidating than a formal meeting. It will also be worth brainstorming where these events might take place within the community, as stakeholders who find the meetings at the Ranger Station difficult to attend may be more capable of attending an event somewhere else in the community.
Analyzing the “How” Aspect
While creating a space that allows for a diverse set of stakeholder to participate is incredibly important, it is just as important to properly divide power between each stakeholder in order to insure that some are not unduly more powerful than others. It is important to recognize the power of each stakeholder in the general world, as well as the Collaborative specifically, and adjust accordingly to make sure the “weakest” members still have a solid voice, as do the stakeholders most impacted by specific projects. Currently, it is hard to directly see how public events and speakers could help in properly equilibrating the power of every stakeholder. However, they would provide those who attend with a more equilibrated baseline of knowledge to base further discussions off of, potentially making hesitant voices more comfortable being heard.