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Project on the Legislator/Citizen Connection
Legislators need to connect with their constituents. Strong connections help legislators keep a pulse on the district, make better policy decisions, solve constituents’ problems and gain political allies. NCSL and the Kettering Foundation are working together to learn how legislators are engaging citizens in meaningful and deliberative ways, including holding thoughtful and civil discussions of divisive topics, examining the difficulties and trade-offs of all approaches, and identifying common ground and good solutions. Legislators tell us there are barriers to creating more deliberative interactions with citizens, including a legislator’s lack of time, funding, priority, facilitation skills and helpful partners. This project will give them a chance to share ideas on meeting those challenges and creating successful citizen engagement practices.
If you are interested in participating in this project please email Bruce Feustel at firstname.lastname@example.org
As part of this project, NCSL is conducting a survey to get information about your practices in working with your constituents. The survey will probably take you five minutes or less to complete. To take it, click on Survey.
Sharing Best Practices
Legislators develop methods of engaging their constituents that fit their personalities, time, districts and other factors. Often they can learn from one another, sharing advice on how to prompt more open discussion, find partners or staff to handle some or all of the planning and logistics, use the best meeting sites, take advantage of technology and follow up on what they learn. Examples of legislator practices or advice include:
America's Legislators Back to School Program
Slated to "kick off" the third week of every September and run throughout the school year, the America's Legislators Back to School Program gives elected officials in all 50 states the opportunity to meet personally with their young constituents and to answer questions, share ideas, listen to concerns and impart a greater understanding of the legislative processes necessary for developing effective public policy and engaged citizens. Sponsored by NCSL, the program is designed to teach young people—the nation's future voters and leaders--what it's like to be a state legislator: the processes, the pressures, and the debate, negotiation and compromise that are the very fabric of representative democracy. See Back to School Program
Legislator as Convener
One powerful role for a legislator is as a convener---the ability to bring people and groups together to talk and try to solve problems. The legislator has a wide range of contacts and often can help constituents identify and focus on key challenges and the leadership qualities to encourage them to reach good decisions. Look at tips and insights on using this authority at Policy Consensus Initiative.