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Frequently Asked Questions About Social Change and Community Development

How do I decide what community I want to partner with?

As you think about community partnerships you should be thinking about what individuals you already have working relationships with. If, for example, you decide that you would like to partner with the faith community, you should determine who you already know or work with who is a member of that community. Do you already have a relationship with a pastor or church member? Would that person be willing to talk with you about your proposed working relationship? If that person believed that your partnership would benefit the community would they be willing to gather some key people together to discuss your proposal?

If you can answer these questions about persons in any given community, you could reasonably consider partnering with that community. Begin slowly. Explain thoroughly to everyone you meet. You may feel like you are saying the same thing over and over again. You may well be doing that. Remember, it is new information to each new person or group. If you lay the foundation well, you will create a more successful partnership.

How do you choose stakeholders when you only really know Service Providers?

Stakeholders need to be representative of their community. If you select only service providers, you will not get a nearly complete picture of what the community itself thinks, believes and is willing to take action about. Service providers, though, can be a good link to others who might be an appropriate stakeholder to add to your group.

When I talk to my stakeholders about "underlying conditions" they don't know what I'm talking about. They don't relate to that language. What can I do?

As prevention educators, we know what we mean by "underlying conditions", but those words may seem like jargon to others. We have and use a lot of jargon, words that have meaning only to those in the work that we do. To communicate well with each other we may need to use words other than our accustomed jargon. "Underlying conditions" may translate to "the attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that allow sexual assault to happen", or some such phrase. It is important to keep phrasing what you are asking from your stakeholders so that all participants are able to contribute. That requires a good facilitator to listen well, adjust and rephrase.

Do we have to do particular activities to determine underlying conditions or to create our plan or can we do that in our own way?

There are probably as many ways to determine underlying conditions as there are facilitators. The key to gleaning information from stakeholders is giving them all many possible ways to access the internal information that they hold. Some people are able to brainstorm out loud in a large group. Others find that method too confusing and become quiet. We often don't hear their ideas because they get silent and just listen. Finding some way to work in pairs, small groups and then the larger group can often help quieter, more introverted members of the group to access what they know and share it with us. Sometimes it is helpful to have people list on a piece of paper their own private brainstorm. Then share with partners or the group. Again, there are many ways to accomplish compiling information, including underlying conditions, from stakeholders.

How do I document what we do in our meetings? What do we have to document to be reflective about our work? What do we have to document to meet the evidence of compliance for the prevention standards?

Documentation of your work helps explain to others what you have accomplished, and helps you keep track of your own progress. The following are methods others have used to document and provide evidence of their work.

  • Stakeholder sign-in sheets
  • Letters of commitment from stakeholders and allies
  • Minutes from meetings
  • Announcements of meetings
  • Journaling the process of each meeting
  • Save brainstorming pages from the "chart pack"
  • Use the "Sexual Assault Prevention Plan" worksheet provided in training packets
  • Save samples of all materials produced
  • Save training certificates to show Orientation and Continuing Education training

The key to good documentation is doing it as you go along. It is not burdensome when it is simply a part of your process. It is incredibly difficult, though, to document something after the fact. Important documents can be lost, minutes cannot be reliably reconstructed and showing evidence of stakeholder attendance can be difficult at best. Do not wait to document!

How many sessions will it take to do our plan?

Every group is different. Some groups have accomplished the basics of a plan in a few hours. (if they are working in a 3 or more hour block) Others take several meetings. The key is for the facilitator to know all the elements needed in a plan and to keep the group on task within the planning framework. If good notes are taken and minutes provided participants, information will not be lost if the plans are made over several weekly meetings. A good resource is the "Sexual Assault Prevention Plan" tool. Logic models are also a good planning tool. Check the prevention section of the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs' web site ( for these documents.

Getting started seems to be taking so long. Is this normal?

It is quite normal to take some time to get started. The foundation of a successful process is built on one-to- one conversations as you build the stakeholder group and become knowledgeably connected to the community. Laying the foundation can help build readiness and commitment. Once you begin meeting, the process will move along with more "visible" results.

An exception to this rule occurs when there is an "opportunity for action". When some situation occurs in a community that calls for an immediate response, stakeholders often identify themselves and commit to a planning process and later invite you to join. Sexual assault programs are often asked to provide expertise, but these are community driven, issue driven initiatives. If you capitalize on an opportunity for action you can build community relationships in a very meaningful way.

Is this model used differently with young people than it is with adults?

The elements of the model are exactly the same no matter what group you work with. The differences for any group occur with use of language (translating jargon) and the kinds of activities you use to accomplish the task of planning. While adults may (and there is a question here) be able to sit longer and stay more in their heads, young people need activity-based interaction. There are many ways to accomplish the basic tasks of condition identification, visioning, determining ways to see progress and planning activities to address the conditions. The key is to learn from your group of stakeholders the most effective ways to work together. Your capacity to remain flexible about how you accomplish the tasks will allow the work to be done.

Reviewed: April 14th, 2015