When the objectives and the target group have been defined, you should give some thought to where you will reach your target group and what will attract them to attend the discussion. You should invest some time in inviting – a diverse group of participants will have a significant effect on the depth of the dialogue and on how different points of view are brought up. You should focus especially on inviting people who usually remain outside this type of discussions. The below tips will help you achieve this, but more time and resources will be required than you are likely to have used for inviting participants before. Far less effort is needed to attract people who are already active.
There are many ways to invite people, but the following stages work in all of them:
- Define the need for the discussion and its objectives. This is where the invitation process already begins.
- On the basis of the need and the objective, identify the target group for the discussion. Based on the objectives of the discussion, you should reflect on who exactly you would like to attend the discussion. Who is affected by the issue, to whom is it important? Also, think about who does not usually participate in discussions about this topic.
- Find the best contact persons for reaching the target group. Identify a few important interest groups or organisations through which you can reach the target group. Who is already in contact with them?
- Invite the contact persons to join the discussion and engage them in the invitation process. Together with each interest group, think about how the target group can best be attracted to attend and engage them in the invitation process. If the discussion topic is important for the target group, it will be easy to accept the request.
- Send the invitations through the right channels and write the invitation in the language of the target group. It is important to choose the channels for the invitations together with the interest groups. What are the specific channels and ways of inviting that will attract the target group to attend? Also, remember to tailor the text in the invitation to the target group.
Tips for strengthening inclusion:
Ensure sufficient resources.
Inviting a diverse group of people requires some effort and time, but it is rewarding. Go over the available resources and define how widely you would like the participants to represent different backgrounds.
You cannot learn from the others if the participants are all people from your own work community or people who already know each other from other contexts.
Invite everyone personally.
A personal invitation is the most efficient one. Interest groups can invite people in person, for example, in work in situations in which they already meet people from the target group. Also remember that going out to meet people is already effective. Moving from your own premises to a neutral ground and bringing people together will definitely be rewarding.
Use the first name.
Let people define themselves the way they want to. Set an example yourself.
Show that you appreciate.
In a dialogue, everyone’s participation and experience are valuable. Mention this already when you invite people – tuning in begins from the invitations.
Think about the following when you write the invitation:
- What will attract your participants to attend the discussion? Look at the world through their eyes.
- What is the objective of the discussion?
- What will happen in the discussion and what is the programme for the day?
- When and where will the discussion be organised? Who will organise it? What practical matters should be paid attention to?