I’ve written previously about the importance of having what I’ve called a “Faversham Conversation“: a public discussion about Faversham’s future. Here are 10 suggested principles that could be followed to make sure this discussion happens effectively.
1. On land and online
The Faversham Conversation should happen through face-to-face meetings as well as social media. Different people have different preferences. The Faversham Conversation must be inclusive.
The Faversham Conversation should not start and stop with periods of inactivity in between but should instead be occurring all the time. After all, this is what is happening “on the street”: people are continuously discussing Faversham’s past, present and future. The Faversham Conversation should channel this non-stop flow of ideas and opinions.
3. Gathering of ideas
The first aim of the Faversham Conversation is to bring together ideas that can shape the future of the town. Faversham is full of good ideas, which can be channelled into forums for discussion.
4. Polling on proposals
Questionnaire surveys should be carried out to gather views on ideas. Both paper-based and online surges should be used, with results being brought together into a common database.
An effort needs to be made to comprehensively study responses to identify common themes. A conversation often has many threads and is difficult to reduce to single ideas.
6. Timely presentation of findings
The results of the conversation need to be available quickly and should be shown using clearly written summaries, using graphics such as tables and charts. A balance needs to be found between overload using too much in formation and over-simplification using too little.
7. Discussion before action
Time needs to be allowed for proper debate of ideas, options and final proposals. Again, this should happen both face-to-face and using social media.
8. Transparent by default, confidential only in exception
In line with national guidance, the Faversham Conversation should generally be a public one. Only exceptional issues may need to be discussed in private.
9. Feeding into/deriving from independent, expert advice
The Faversham Conversation should be informed by specialist advice from third parties, for example by drawing on best practice worldwide. Faversham isn’t alone in facing issues such as transport safety, environmental protection, economic vitality and heritage protection. Lessons from elsewhere should be looked at and advice should be sought.
10. A place for gathering ideas on any subject, not only prescribed issues