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Begin With a Plan

Community outreach and education begins and ends, and then begins all over again — with a plan.

Independent Living Centers develop goals every year. In addition to supporting individuals with disabilities in living full and independent lives, the Centers’ daily activities include community interaction and involvement, work with community leaders, media outreach, public forums, and education.

Well-planned community outreach and education is linked to the vision, mission, and strategic goals of the organization. The objective is to generate a broader understanding and support for independent living throughout communities, ultimately achieving systemic change.

Community education programs must include an effective planning process. The core elements of the plan include the development of a situation statement, defined goals, targeted audiences, a strong message, agreement on outreach methods, definition of roles, and a process for assessment.

How is "Community" Defined?

Engaging a community involves creating and maintaining relationships and a dialogue between and among community members. At the center of the relationship is the exchange of information, resources, ideas, and support. “Community” may include individuals, organizations, associations, businesses, public and private sector leaders, educational institutions and others with shared interests, or who will be impacted by outcomes.

Why is Community Education Important?

Achieving a broader understanding and engagement of people and decision-makers in our communities requires public involvement. Community education is a method of providing information to people in your community on issues of specific concern. An informed community is more likely to actively participate in developing positive solutions. In addition to building community support, community outreach and education provides opportunities to obtain information and input vital to advancing your mission.

Information is provided to stakeholders as part of a broader program and directly associated with identified goals. It is developed and distributed in different ways including, though not limited to, community forums, briefings, testimony and presentations, media coverage, Center events, newsletters and social media, coalition building, and volunteerism. Community education must be consistent and ongoing to be effective.

The complete PowerPoint presentation slides from the August 12, 2015 Workshop "The Life of a Successful Community Outreach Program" are available for download here.