Q. What is Coastside Conversations?
A. Coastside Conversations is a 501c3 organization developed from a grass-roots project that encourages neighbors to come together and talk about what they want for the Coastside. The goal is to facilitate meaningful and civil discussions between residents around specific topics, e.g. parks and recreational opportunities; transportation, jobs, housing, improving public infrastructure and planning for growth. We want to prompt residents to consider two questions:
- What do we want in our (collective) backyards?
- What can we say YES to?
Q. Those topics are discussed all the time. How is Coastside Conversations different than holding public meetings?
A. Public meetings have several disadvantages. They are often scheduled at inconvenient times for parents or residents who work over the hill. While public comments are accepted, there is usually not an open, give-and-take discussion (a true conversation) among audience members, and many people may feel uncomfortable voicing their true opinions in front of public officials. There are also considerable gaps in the information available from public agencies (meeting minutes, staff reports, and agendas), so residents who are inclined to self-educate and speak out at public meetings have a difficult time finding out about a particular issue.
Q. How does it work?
A. Like a book club or knitting circle, Conversations are small groups of people gathering to discuss a common interest, but not necessarily sharing a common point of view. Anyone can volunteer to host a group in their home, office, or the local coffee shop or brewpub. The Coastside Conversations project will provide all the materials needed, including:
- A Host’s Guide with tips for facilitating honest and respectful conversations
- A Topic Briefing Book and Video with objective background information and links to additional resources
- Feedback Forms to help the host capture the group’s comments and proposed solutions
Groups can meet for just one topic, or plan to meet once/quarter as new materials are available. Prior to gathering, participants will be encouraged to review the topic materials (downloadable from the project’s website). Hosts will be responsible for gathering feedback from each Conversation, which will be compiled each quarter into freely available consensus reports for policy-makers.
Q. Is there any cost to hosts or participants?
A. There will be no costs for hosts or participants to access materials from the project website. Optional materials, such as extensive reports, large wall maps, or other items may be made available for a fee to cover production costs.
Q. How are the topics chosen?
A. Future topics will be chosen based on feedback from hosts, participants, and advisors, as well as social media polls of the community at large.
Q. Who is involved?
A. Coastside Conversations was created when Irma Mitton, Judy Taylor and Deborah Harter Williams realized how difficult it was to have a good understanding of how policy decisions are made at the local, city, or county level, including the policies of public utilities, special districts, and other agencies operating on the Coast. In addition, they recognized that there are many points of view that don’t get heard. As part of the evolution to a non-profit Annette Merriman joined the new Board of Directors. The materials for Coastside Conversations are created by the above based on interviews and input from community members with different points of view.
Q. Why does this project need funding? How much funding is needed, and what does it cover?
A. Funding is needed in order for the Conversations project to gain rapid momentum and reach the broadest possible audience in all pockets of the Coastside. Relying solely on volunteers or pro bono services will make it difficult to launch the project in a timely manner. Having a full suite of professionally prepared materials coupled with an extensive social media/web presence for consistent outreach and communications is essential to the project’s success.
Initial funding will cover the development of the following in both English and Spanish:
- Project website and social medial channels
- Host’s Kit materials
- Briefing book and video for first topic
- Outreach communications campaign (via social media, local print and broadcast media, flyers and direct mail)
The project organizers will also seek future funding through grant applications, crowdfunding, business sponsorships, and other sources.