What is it? Local residents have a stake in the decisions that are made about their community. Despite being stakeholders, however, many individuals do not always have a full understanding of the breadth and depth of community issues. Public issues education helps to better inform citizens. During this process, a small group of interested and affected citizens jointly explore and learn about a particular issue, usually one that appears complex or controversial. The group explores the issue in a studied, non-partisan manner, seeking out subject matter experts as needed. Once informed, the group can play a more active and effective role in recommending and advocating for community solutions.
How has it been used? Moore County, NC used a public issues education program to help implement land-use planning, which is often greeted with opposition. To help mitigate this potential problem, the committee created to lead this process conducted nine meetings. The sessions focused on educating the community about land-use planning, its components, and its implications. Once the initial meetings had concluded, the committee held 14 additional gatherings designed to gather public opinion about land use planning. While the final decision to institute land-use planning came from the local government, the public education process helped build understanding of the reasons behind it and enabled people to better participate in the implementation. In the end, the committee was able to gather and process over a thousand comments. (Source: Extension’s Role in Public Issue Education and Dispute Resolution – NC State)