Ten (10) Possible Strategies for Designers to Improve Communication Management with Communities
by Jorge Rigau, FAIA and Alberto Rigau

The following are not presented in any particular order, as implementation of all or some strategies may vary from case to case:

1. Elucidating the Big Picture
Community members often argue their cases focusing in particulars, often missing a large scale, wider-scoped understanding of the issue at hand.

2. Make the Community’s Questions Your Own
Identify questions and concerns that are key to the conflict and address them before they are articulated as such. Answer them directly, and proceed to explain; not otherwise. Making sense is about acknowledging pro’s and con’s.

3. Disclose Your Thinking Process, Moments of Hesitation Included
Decisions are often the result of the best options available, but most people ignore it. Solutions are conclusions, not just decisions. Inform about process: by humanizing your choices, these become easier to understand

4. Kids Fight, Adults Negotiate
Life is about give and take. Everyone needs to come to terms with what he(she) is willing to give up… and what not. You can’t have it all… but having a say is better than losing it all.

5. Careful what you wish for
Offer a glimpse of what could happen if everything being argued for becomes a reality: all options carry along unforeseen consequences

6. It can always be worse
Present an alternative option to what the community opposes, one that – being a truly feasible, possible one – transcends the negative aspects of your proposal.

7. Take the carpet off their feet
Groups thrive on local myths; dispel one. Often informed by hearsay and uncorroborated data, community members need to be confronted by facts capable of opening a crack in their otherwise “solid” understanding of the problem.

8. Leave no doubt about what you are against
In order to narrow the scope of possible misinterpretations, present examples – as vivid as possible – of what you do not endorse.

9. Empower the Community Further
Focused on the immediate, community members often ignore important issues pursuant to their group. Increase awareness within the community of goals that should be of their concern and ways and opportunities for addressing them.

10. Validate Locally the Idea of Change being Tradition
Change is permanent; everything transforms and evolves. What may now be argued as permanent was not so before. Resistance on behalf of tradition defies the essence of existence.

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