Search form

Ask an Advisor Answers

1.) A concerned citizen approaches local government officials about developing a walking path in their community. Who should be involved in this scenario?
How should each individual or organization be involved?

2.) There has been an increase in heroin use in a metropolitan area. The local government needs a solution. Who will be involved in coming up with a plan? Who should be involved in this scenario?
How should each individual or organization be involved?

3.)The number of people who are homeless in urban areas has increased by 15% in the last two years. Citizens are concerned and complaining to the city government. Who will be involved to address the issue? Who should be involved in this scenario?
How should each individual or organization be involved?

            Thank you for writing to us with your thought-provoking questions.
             In our view, all sectors of the community can be involved in all three of the scenarios you pose. That includes residents, community groups, and government at both local, state, and federal levels.  In general, The greater the extent and the diversity of the involvement,  more beneficial the outcome is likely to be.
           Whether each sector should be involved is a different question. The answer here depends on the formal or mandated responsibility of the sector and the importance of the problem relative to other problems the sector may be responsible for.
             In the case of the walking path, resident involvement seems especially important. Such a path is not usually seen as an essential public service, which suggests that residents will have to advocate for it and work toward getting community agreement on the length of the path, the route it will take, its design features (width, composition, signage, etc.), the conditions of use, and how much it might cost.
             Residents promoting the path will probably do better if they organize into a group, and work to obtain broader community and local government backing through (for example) holding public hearings or making personal contacts with decision makers.
             The cases of heroin use and homelessness are somewhat different, in that more specialized knowledge is usually required (such as how to treat heroin addiction, etc.). In addition, larger amounts of funding are usually called for, and funding typically needs to be continued over years, as contrasted with a one-time expense for the walking path.
            Accordingly, governments here would usually take on a greater share of the responsibility.  And most might agree that it is government’s job to be the primary provider of services.  Nevertheless, in both those cases., resident involvement is desirable and should be solicited, especially from the residents most directly impacted by the situation (such as  heroin users and homeless people).
           For further information and ideas, you might benefit from looking  at some of the materials in the Community Tool Box, especially the sections in Chapter 18 and 24, on involving different community sectors. You can find links to these in the Community Tool Box table of contents.
            In sum, a good rule of thumb is to encourage the greatest degree of involvement from the largest feasible number of different groups in the community,  and especially from those who are most affected by the problem.
          We hope some of these thoughts may be helpful to you. Thanks again for writing to us, and all best wishes for success as your work continues.

Question Date: Wed, 03/01/2023