The diversity of the participants’ points of view has a significant effect on whether the dialogue will increase understanding of the topic. The diversity of the points of view makes it possible to gain unexpected insights that would not be possible without the group’s dialogue. By defining the participants you can better identify all those groups of people that find the matter important and the people you should invite to attend. This will take time, but it will bear fruit throughout the discussion.
When the objectives and the need for the discussion have been defined, survey and identify the different groups, persons, actors and organisations associated with the topic. Define the primary target group and the other interest groups – who else should be present in the discussion? Also, think about whether there are people who usually do not participate in these types of discussions and also invite them.
Your participants should represent a wide range of points of view. This can be achieved when the participants have different backgrounds. Invite people with different backgrounds, education, culture, ages or life situations. It is also important to identify all groups associated with the topic – do not choose only the two extremes for the discussion.
Through the below questions, the different groups associated with the topic will become visible, enabling you to expand the group of people you are going to invite if you wish.
Make a list of the points you consider essential:
- To ensure deeper understanding of the topic, who should attend the discussion?
- The primary target group?
- To whom is the issue important?
- Whose life does the issue affect?
- Who does not usually participate in discussions about this topic?
- Who else is interested in this issue?
- Who influences the decisions?
- What bodies should be represented? The public sector, politics, media, arts and culture, businesses, organisations?
- Is the dialogue open to everyone or not?
- Is wide representation desired?
- How do you ensure the diversity of the participants’ backgrounds (age, gender and cultural background)?
To identify the most important people to invite, you can use different maps of interest groups and templates for planning the target group. The simplest one is the onion model, in which the most important people to be invited are placed in the centre and more obvious people and those that are not quite as important to reach are placed further from the centre.