Community Voice Method

The Community Voice Method (CVM) is Community Voice Consulting’s signature service. It is an approach to stakeholder engagement that uses local voices to guide community decision-making processes. CVM has helped thousands of people in numerous communities participate in meaningful, fruitful dialogs.

In a nutshell, this is how it works:

  1. We conduct video-recorded interviews with stakeholders
  2. We analyze interview responses in order to create a video that presents stakeholder views and to guide quantitative analyses of the issue
  3. At community meetings, we first present the video and the analyses, then use structured discussion to help stakeholders identify solutions.

The process and its benefits are described in more detail below.

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Video-recorded group interview, Haywood County, NC.

1.  Stakeholder interviews

Listening is one of the basic ways that one person can empower another, and it is the foundation of CVM. We start out by listening to our local partners: those individuals and groups whom we are seeking to assist in accomplishing a civic goal. Together with our partners, we identify key stakeholders in the issue. Using peer referral and a structured sampling process, we identify individual stakeholders who represent the diversity of perspectives on the issue.

We conduct one-on-one, video recorded interviews with these selected stakeholders. Typically lasting about an hour, these reflective conversations offer interviewees a rare, extended opportunity to make their values and views heard.

2. Data analysis and film production

Using NVivo qualitative analysis software, CVC staff code and analyze what interviewees have said. We identify prevalent themes and narratives (shared storylines) in the data. Based on this analysis, we produce a video, composed entirely of interview excerpts, that summarizes stakeholder perspectives on the issue being considered. Unlike a written report, the film is an engaging, accessible way of presenting our findings to the community.

When desired, we also use the interview analysis to guide analyses of quantitative data that can help to address stakeholder concerns. These quantitative data are then presented in easy-to-understand, visual formats, including maps and other infographics.

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Community meetings, Down East Carteret County, NC.

3. Community dialog

The film and infographics are presented to the community at public meetings, which can be conducted by CVC personnel or by client organizations. The goal of these meetings is to use the film and accompanying information to stimulate productive dialog among stakeholders. Immediately after the film screening, we guide meeting attendees through facilitated small group discussions, during which they have the opportunity to respond to the presentation, share their own views, and deliberatively arrive at potential solutions to the issues that have been raised.

Benefits of this approach

Too often, communities fail to effectively resolve problems because stakeholders lack a way of articulating core values, listening closely to others’ views, and talking reasonably about possible solutions. CVM provides a unique means of doing so. Time after time, we have witnessed how CVM can prepare communities to successfully address issues that had seemed intractable.

We have observed that CVM is particularly helpful in these situations:

  • When an issue is contentious, making it hard for people to discuss it in a reasoned way
  • When an issue has never been previously addressed by the community in an organized way
  • When some or all stakeholders are marginalized or feel excluded from public participation processes.

However, CVM has been successfully applied to a variety of topics—including land use planning, agricultural economic development, fisheries management, and land conservation—in a wide array of locations, from North Carolina (USA) to the United Kingdom and the Caribbean.

To find out how CVM can help your community or organization, please contact us!

For more information on CVM and past CVM projects, please visit our research site, communityvoicemethod.org.