Posing questions can be one of the most powerful ways to get conversation started on Town Meeting. Most great solutions to public problems started by someone asking "How can we make such-and-such better?" or "How can we solve such-and-so?"
Posing a question can be a good way to tone down commentary that might otherwise end up too aggressive. Many times, citizens will have an issue they feel strongly about, but are not sure that others share their opinion; and thus, they simply say nothing. This is a shame because saying nothing does nothing to advance the issue. However, by posing a question about the issue, a listener can raise the topic without necessarily admitting their stance -- and far from being cowardly or a cop out, this is a very effective and diplomatic way to begin a discussion. So if you are uncomfortable with taking a public stand on an issue, but would still like to get a feel for the community's position, then pose the issue as a question.
For example: let's say you're worried about the fact that you're seeing too many kids without bicycle helmets. You could call up (or write in) and say:
"Hi -- I was wondering if anyone might know why there are so many kids riding their bikes without helmets. Do they not like the way the helmets look? Do they think it's uncool? Do the families not have enough money? I'd really like to be able to understand why more kids aren't wearing helmets, and I'll hang up and listen for other people's comments."
There -- you've raised the issue without criticizing anyone, pointing fingers, or climbing on a soap box. You're not being preachy, you're just sharing a thought and wondering if others in the community agree or disagree -- simple as that!
Now here are some sample scripts you can use if you like. You can use them verbatim, or as a rough model for composing your own call:
"Hi -- I was wondering if anyone might know why (issue)_____________________________. Is it because (reason)_________________________? Is it because (reason)_____________________? I'd really like to know what the community thinks about this, and I'll hang up and listen for other people's comments."
"Hi -- I'd like to know what the community thinks about (issue)_________________________. I've been following this issue and I feel like (opinion)_______________________________. But that's just me, and I'm hoping some other folks might call in and share how they feel about it. Thanks!"
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