Tips to running community consultations

Kristina McMillan, the Manager at the NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre in Winnipeg, MB completed her community consultations in early 2014. She wrote a guest blog on our main website earlier this year reflecting on her process. Below, she shares with us some valuable tips that top her list to running effective and engaging community consultations that many community-based food organizations will find valuable.

  1. When connecting with potential program participants: work through existing trusted community groups, go out to them, meet potential participants where they are comfortable… and bring food. People will be more candid with you if they are in a comfortable familiar setting. Ditto if you can get into a discussion about people’s own food traditions and skills.
  2. I apply the philosophy of point 1 (meeting people where they’re at) to language too. When connecting with potential program participants, let people name the issues they face for themselves, then mirror the language they use in the deeper discussion. So if it is “not having enough money to eat right” use that and drop the food insecurity/food access lingo.
  3. Be prepared for some potentially uncomfortable opinions: not everyone shares the same ideas about why people are poor, who “deserves” to access supports like a CFC, and what was to blame for issues around low quality diet.  
  4. Use pictorial techniques when working with communities which have low literacy rates or for whom English isn’t a first language. I used a “dot-motcracy” activity at our Newcomer Family Event and while it didn’t provide me with a complete picture-it was great in terms of pointing me in specific directions for newcomer programming.
  5. When community concerns arise hear them out but don’t let it derail the conversation, ask for ideas about around how to make sure it doesn’t happen at the CFC (or other proposed program) and then move on.
  6. Follow up with results! People want to know what you found out and how the project will proceed. To this end take down contact information if possible.

+ Curious to learn more? Check out our post on Dartmouth North CFC's consultation process and findings.