Organizing participatory budgeting events can be a nuisance. It’s anybody’s guess how many people will come, how active will they be, what unforeseen situations will occur and so on. And you still have to account for Smith’s Law.
So, what can you do? Just let it flow or fight it?
In my opinion neither and both.
You simple have to be prepared for most of it. Know your limitations, be ready to lend a hand to fill any gaps and be flexible with last minute changes.
Not everything will be perfect, but then again nothing is.
Live with that and learn from every situation.
I compiled a small list to guide you through the preparation process. Write answers for every question below for each public event you organize.
You’ll come to the conclusion that the first will be harder and then things get simpler as they will become natural.
- What kind of event you want?
- What are your objectives?
- Who is your target audience?
- What’s the GOOD reason for people to show up?
- What can STOP people from showing up?
After this initial questions you may start going into details.
Choose an appropriate location
Always account for more people than expected, but not too much.
Provide information on how many seat will be available.
Make a risk assessment and event safety plan
Always take care of your citizens. Consider small but important steps such as announcing exit routes, having fire department ready and emergency services alert.
If it’s an older people meeting, the probability of having an health related problem is high.
Your team should know how to handle situations.
Make a spreadsheet with WHO / ACTIVITY / DETAILS / CONTINGENCY PLAN
Your plan should be like a timeline. That will answer “What to do next?”
Delegate, but keep control of who does what and always predict what to do if that fails. It can be the hall becomes unavailable, or the speakers, or the flyers are not deliverable on time, or even not enough participants.
Plan your marketing / public relations / communication
Don’t underestimate the lead times required to successfully promote the event and how long it may take for your message to get through.
Learn how to talk to the media. They want to hear stories, not bullshit. They want interesting material, not just some more boring stuff. They want almost done material as they are usually with tight deadlines.
Provide handouts, flyers, or other kind of written support material
Offer some clear handouts that emphasize your position and inform people how the process works. Make them available online also.
Stickers, t-shirts or ribbons are all powerful ways to get your message through. Make them compelling, proportional to your budget and with some emotional link to your region.
Plan your staff
Have enough, provide training, guarantee correct “can do” attitude. Having a “dream team” will be contagious!
Having the right staff is the most important asset in delivering a smooth event.
Lead by example and have a good time.
Care for food and drinks
Sometimes the gatherings occurs for long hours or around meal time. In such case providing water, coffee or even some small snacks is highly advisable to keep energy levels up.
If it’s a full day session you should take care of a light meal. Use this breaks as networking and informal discussion opportunities.
Document the event
Photos and videos are the most sharable content online. So, provide a good repository. Press will turn to public available photos for their news. Participants will also share and help spread the word.
Make sure you have the necessary authorizations. Warn the entire session of that is going to happen, and if possible make them sign an image rights statement.
After ask people what they think
It’s the same as in you participatory budgeting. After doing it, ask for feedback.
Don’t feel comfortable only with the positive critique. Search for the negative and work on those.
And always remember to check, check and check again.