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March 15, 2018, 2:37 p.m.

How City Bureau concocted its first in-person meeting for its stakeholders to help design its future

The original idea for the Documenters Summit, like many of our best laid plans, started with a simple question: How do we create a space where our 300+ Documenters (some of the most civically engaged people in the city) can connect, collaborate and have a hand in designing our collective work?

(For those who are new to this: 👋 Our Documenters program trains and pays people to document local public meetings and engage in the production of journalism through our media lab. City Bureau hosts regular trainings for Documenters and the general public on a journalistic skills like interviewing, note-taking, mobile photography and FOIA.)

We’ve reported on how City Bureau is piloting a group of Documenters with WDET in Detroit, and how they don’t consider it citizen journalism. As co-founder and editorial director Darryl Holliday told me at the time: “We don’t need to qualify what people do as civic participants with the word ‘journalists.’ We want to support the people acting, engaging, leveraging power on their own terms without having to be journalists if they don’t want to.” Let’s let him continue:

Our solution was to design a Summit focused on building community, not the hard skills we usually teach. We wanted to share our lingering questions about the program and open our decision-making process to the very people who work within it. To do that, we knew we needed to create a “brave space,” as City Bureau’s Director of Community Engagement, Andrea Faye Hart, called it—where people feel comfortable weighing in, recognizing that feedback is an active, not-always-easy process.

City Bureau’s steps, which are handy for anyone interested in planning a community-focused meeting with their stakeholders:

  1. Define your goals (a.k.a know where you want to go and who needs to be there)
  2. Plan thoroughly — but leave room for the unexpected
  3. Lead from the middle — put attendees first
  4. Celebrate your community
POSTED     March 15, 2018, 2:37 p.m.
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