Constructive Candor

Wear Tennis Shoes (Tip #5 in PI Toolbox)

iStock_000027633393Sweartennisshoes

Successful political campaigns depend on mobilizing people to vote.  According to the US Census Bureau, leaders running for political office shouldn't generally expect more than 60% of the constituents to vote.  So, aspiring politicians with the need to build name recognition among voters must resort to "door belling" -- a  concept I hadn't been introduced to until a couple of years ago when a friend asked me to door bell for a local community leader with political aspirations.  I believed in this leader's message and wanted to help share who he is, what he stands for, and why our neighbors should vote for him.  I door belled for 4 hours and I was exhausted.  I have to confess I can't imagine door belling every day for two to eight hours!  This is the truest form of grassroots politicking and commitment to a cause. 

While I knocked on doors, I met all kinds of people:  those interested in politics, those disgusted by politics, and those who didn't want to talk.  Ringing door bells allowed me to interact directly with my community.  You never knew who would open their door and what story they may be interested in telling if I took the time to listen.  My tennis shoes became an essential tool in completing my task.

In Tip #5 of our Public Involvement Toolbox, I'm going to emphasize the value of door to door stakeholder outreach to gather valuable public input.

It quickly occurred to me that this same tactic was essential to public involvement efforts.  Is it really possible to connect with the public from your air-conditioned office?  Certainly the power of social media has transformed the way we connect, but it cannot replace face-to-face interactions.  We should remember not to neglect the tried and true principles that make us human:  an introduction with a hearty hand shake, empathy built from understanding, and a genuine commitment to listen.  I may be old school but I do not believe you can truly understand the public, the challenges they face, the opportunities they experience from an office. 

Now, I recognize not every tool reaches every stakeholder, but don't be too quick to resort to social media or a website as your primary source of communication.  Being with stakeholders where they feel comfortable creates the best opportunity to hear what they have to say.

Bonus Tip:  

Wear a pedometer.  It's fun to track the number of steps you take. 

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Photo credit:  www.istock.com

Topics: Transportation & Public Works, Public Involvement