Beginning advocates mistakenly think that this stage is going to be the easiest and most interesting. In some ways they’re correct. Reaching out to your community and talking about the skatepark project is a lot of fun, but turning this activity into something that helps advance the project in a meaningful way takes careful planning and deft advocacy skill.
Raising awareness and gathering support will largely be the responsibility of the core group.
There are four qualities that you will want your core group to be known for:
1. You are organized
The skatepark will likely raise concerns from the community on a variety of issues. Your group’s ability to be organized reflects your confidence and professionalism. If you are disorganized, it will raise concerns about your group’s credibility and reliability. Your claims about the skatepark will be associated with your dubious reputation as a group.
- Meet your obligations on time
- Attend scheduled meetings
- Keep clear, concise records
2. You are practical
The skatepark is an elaborate project that is probably foreign to your community. You are the local skatepark expert and people will come to you for answers. It doesn’t help to rely on naïve concepts and elegant philosophy when responding to very real concerns raised by the people around you. When posed with a question about the skatepark, be as specific as you can.
- Keep a record of statistics and case studies
- Don’t overestimate or over-promise on your group’s capabilities
- Don’t ad-lib the answers you are unsure of
3. You are unified
Your group is representing a project that is inclusive and popular. It doesn’t help your cause to have misunderstandings and arguments about the direction of the skatepark, particularly in public. Your elected officials want to be confident that the skatepark is widely desired by the local youth and other members of the community.
- You are representing the needs of skaters, BMX riders, and other active youth
- The skatepark vision is shared by the broader community
- Your community will join others that have successful skateparks
4. You are flexible
Skateparks can be controversial. Compromises will be demanded of your group. Some will be realistic and some will be unacceptable. You cannot let those that expect the skatepark to fail make key decisions about its development, and nobody can match the core group’s skatepark expertise. Your group must be able to indentify what kinds of adjustments to the skatepark vision are acceptable and what is not.
- You know how to build success
- You are prepared to address community concerns
- You will make every effort to meet everyone’s needs
Keep these four qualities in mind any time you are preparing to meet with the public or presenting to an organization. These qualities will be strained when you encounter adversaries that are shrill and accusatory of skateboarders and the skatepark project. How you manage these unfortunate encounters will speak volumes about the character of you and your group. It will not go unnoticed.