By Fred Black

If You Tell Them, They Will Come!

By Fred Black Posted September 29, 2011 at 2:27 am

Town leaders and the planning team for “Chapel Hill 2020” went to amazing lengths to get the word out that all citizens were invited to come to East Chapel Hill High School on Tuesday, September 27th, to participate in the first sessions to help develop a new comprehensive plan. Getting that word out included a variety of methods – mail, email, news articles, radio, phone calls, contacts with specific groups and organizations, and person-to-person, just to name some.
It worked! The thought that “wouldn’t it be great if 200 came” actually resulted in some 400 coming out to provide their vision for Chapel Hill’s future. They also identified a variety of themes that would help realize their vision. I had the opportunity to facilitate one of the many table discussions, and if all were like mine, everyone was enthusiastic, respectful and focused on the task.
By any measure, this first step of “Chapel Hill 2020 – Our Town, Our Vision,” was a success because so many from all over the community came to help shape our future. But what about those who, in spite of all of the efforts made, still didn’t know about the opportunity to be part of this? This is the information age, isn’t it?  I guess we might assume that when you push information out, magically, it hits the target. Just not the case!
It’s my opinion that we do have a problem with getting information to all of our citizens, and it’s not because of a lack of trying. Some do not read newspapers or follow local news on the radio or TV. Some do not use the computer, so they may not get the information that the Town goes to great lengths to make available. And some do not interact with people who might be in a position to bring some of the critical and timely information to their attention.
So what’s the solution? What else can we do to get the word out in a timely and efficient way? I’ve had several conversations with people lately who had nothing for me when I asked them my question. Matter of fact, one person told me in a pretty blunt way that the Town just can’t do much more than they are doing to help keep people informed. He went on to say that at some point, people have to assume some personal responsibility for keeping themselves informed.
I continue to  ponder this because this is important and I’m just optimistic enough to believe we can come up with ideas. As we move along developing our comprehensive plan, just to cite one example, getting information out to people is critical. So bottom line, if we transmit all of this critical information, can we increase the number of citizens in a position to receive? 
What ideas do you have to help get the word out as broadly as possible? Do you believe that some are just not willing to expend the effort to be informed? There must be some ideas and possible solutions out there! Please leave your comments.
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