People who are the focus of our plans, services, initiatives, funding, policies or other work should be at the table, as part of the diverse constituency helping to shape the plans.
Because it’s the right thing to do. It’s respectful, including them in shaping that which may or will impact their lives.
Because it’s smart. By involving those who are the focus of your work (as well as other diverse constituencies) you create a better plan, shaped by people who are living with the issues that are your focus.
Because it’s cost effective. Involving diverse stakeholders, including those being served, increases the base of involved and supportive people. When people help shape something, they are much more apt to share information about the work, and to actively support it. Involvement of diverse constituencies creates both better quality plans, and more effective and cost effective implementation.
In planning, we’ve learned over the decades that involvement of the people served represents an essential, critical, and foundational part of the planning. When people served are not included in the planning process, there are many negative (intended and unintended) consequences.
- Plans that don’t address issues as well as hoped, because the experts aren’t close enough to the ground to know many important issues, and diverse constituencies that can provide a better nuanced picture are not involved;
- Marginalization of those being served, when not included (intentionally or unintentionally);
- Pushback from those groups, and/or their lack of support for policies developed “for them” or “to address them,” but without their involvement;
- Lack of ability of a plan or strategies to gain traction and support.
Advocates and many policy experts have been working on this issue for years to ensure that the people being served are “at the table” and help shape the work. This ensures the voices of those targeted are heard, and they are treated with respect, as equals.
When diverse constituencies are involved in planning, the plans are usually more solid, responsive, effective, and cost effective. They are better able to address priority needs and challenges. And they are more strongly supported.
Reviews of the literature on planning, and a study of models and effective practices makes it clear that involvement of diverse constituencies is now considered to be a sine qua non. Leaders involved in building this framework in the U.S. include the Foundation for Community Association Research; the National Center for Responsive Philanthropy; Native American Tribes, Native American Rights Fund, American Indian Policy Center, and others; LULAC, National Council of La Raza, National Institute for Latino Policy, and other Latino/Hispanic groups; federal DHHS Office of Minority Health; The Pew Trusts focus on Health Impact Assessments; and many others.
This is especially important for local, regional, national and international work in the area of aging. The demographic trend is, as Ken Dychtwald said, a huge “Age Wave.” There are increasing numbers of older adults in most communities and nations, which will impact all areas of life. These elderly people should help shape any plans. Their lack of involvement could create significant numbers of older adults and others engaged in pushback, until such time as planners involve them as equals at the table. Many countries have older adult policy and advocacy groups, with large numbers of older adults themselves involved. Many of these groups are also focused on health equity, and the disproportionate impact caused by marginalized by poverty, race and ethnicity, and education. This content expertise, as well as the wisdom of the elders themselves, can serve planners well. Involving them and their expertise can provide for a stronger level of support moving forward.