P2 tip #4: Build local ownership

7 06 2011

Who does a project serve? Who does it affect? Who is going to live with the outcome day-in and day-out? Although a local, state or federal agency owns a project in terms of funding and decision-making, project results impact a community. And the reason a project exists is to serve that population. The government agency may not be able to turn over the decision to the community, but as P2 folks, we must help the project team think about what best fits the community’s needs and values.

Building local ownership starts with listening. The project team should listen to how the community defines the problem and allow input to brainstorming potential solutions. Listening will help the project team better understand the problem and better evaluate possible solutions. And if we are listening well, the result will feel logical to those it serves. (This doesn’t mean there won’t be differences of opinion or opposition…)

Does the project respond to the community’s defined needs? Do they see how it fits in with the present or future landscape? Do they understand the potential consequences and benefits of the options under consideration? Can you describe in a couple simple sentences how a project proposal meets a need or improves the quality of life?

Part of our role in PI is thinking about the citizens a decision-making process serves. We should put ourselves in their shoes to keep a check on whether a project team’s definition of issues and solutions rings true with what people may be thinking and feeling on the ground.