Understanding how your audience sees the issue now is important. Think of the community conversations as data points. Your community conversations can serve as focus groups of sorts if you go back and read the notes to look for language that was meaningful to them. For example, the United Way of San Diego found in its 15 community conversations with 200 people the phrase “literacy” did not go over as well as “early grade reading.” Community Impact Manager C.J. Robinson recalls:
“Early grade reading came across as warmer and didn’t imply ‘illiterate.’ The Community Conversation took us down a peg, forcing us to use less ‘high level’ language.”
While it may be out of your budget to run a public opinion poll (costing at least $60,000 statewide depending on the sample size) to find out what people think or focus groups to find out what shapes their thinking ($7,500-$10,000), you may have pretty good data at hand.
Here are two sets of early grade reading messages you can adapt which try to show the community challenge as one that the community can tackle. Be sure and test them with your board, volunteers and neighbors!