Doing public work - apprehension, then inspiration
Angela Vogt is a master's of public policy candidate at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, graduating later this month. She is originally from St. Cloud, Minnesota.
I have been privileged to have been a part of the Warrior to Citizen Campaign Community Dialogue Subcommittee, which has focused on inviting and encouraging diverse communities to have conversations about veterans. Our group includes individuals from varied backgrounds, including University of Minnesota students, nonprofit executives, religious leaders, and professional staff at the Humphrey Institute. I have been very impressed by the inspired commitment by all the members of our group. In particular, the undergraduate student veterans in our group this year have done a marvelous job of reaching out to the broader campus community to help us understand both the gifts and talents veterans bring and the challenges they face upon returning from deployment.
Community dialogues on veterans reintegration were inspired by students in Harry Boyte’s Community Organizing Skills for Public Action class in 2007, and our group wanted to continue developing interest in it as well as developing tools for groups interested in addressing veterans in their own communities.
Several members of our group (including me) felt a little uncomfortable with the idea of being facilitators in the beginning. We realized through our work together that actually participating in a dialogue event was the best way to overcome the apprehension we felt. We wanted to alleviate the fear factor for others as well, so we worked to put together a facilitator’s guide.
The guide lays out a simple plan for conducting a community dialogue and describes what one would need to do to plan for a meeting. We think that after going through the process once, most people will be much more at ease with it and will not even need the guide, but for first time facilitators it’s a nice safety net.
So far, community dialogues have been conducted in schools, churches, and through integrated community experiences. At meetings I have observed or participated in, I have been inspired and moved by the level of concern for veterans and the willingness of citizens to take action on the issues they choose to address. This is civic engagement at its best.
The Warrior to Citizen Campaign invites you to use the facilitators training tool to start a discussion in your community. Download the guide here.