Determine Who Should Participate in Planning and Persuade Them to Become Involved


Seek to involve in the planning:

  • Local public officials such as the mayor/city manager and the staff to whom the mayor/city manager will delegate this work, Including staff from the civil rights/community relations agency.
  • Law enforcement officials.
  • Emergency management staff.
  • Key advocates for interest and advocacy groups within the community, especially civil rights groups.
  • Influential community leaders, including faith leaders, bar leaders, business leaders, educational leaders, local “celebrities” (radio/local TV hosts, athletes, etc.), leaders of youth organizations, who can be credible communicators and also can interact across interest and advocacy groups.
  • Other individuals who reflect the general public’s views and are respected by the community.
  • Experts in areas crucial to the planning, such as media (including social media), educators, mediators and people versed in handling community conflicts.
  • Make sure someone is responsible for adding new members to the planning group as the process moves forward, particularly as it becomes clearer:
    • What groups or individuals could help implement the plan.
    • What expertise would help the group.
    • What segments of the community are not represented in the planning group.
  • Because of the challenges and barriers associated with creating a plan to deal with civil unrest, it may be necessary to persuade these key persons that it is worthwhile to participate in creating such a plan (see “more detail” below).


Ultimately, the planning group should reflect the broader community, so that:

  • The plan benefits from the views of all segments of the community,
  • Those who must be part of carrying out the plan have already participated in the planning and are committed to its implementation, and
  • Residents view the planning group as legitimate because they feel that their interests have been represented.



As a practical matter, it may be difficult to engage all of these persons at the beginning, as some will hold out to determine whether the planning process is likely to be productive. One way to enhance participation is to consider who should be issuing the invitation to participate. Engaging highly-respected, well-known figures may encourage others to participate. There can be successive stages at which more representatives of constituencies with different points of view, expertise, or ability to bring various segments of the community are brought into the process. For example, youth group representation, always helpful, may become more important when there have been conflicts in the schools.

Possible points to persuade key persons to participate in the planning include:

  • Although the community will need to adapt the planning to its own tensions and situation, it can benefit from the lessons learned by other communities that have experienced civil unrest.
  • Divided communities need not become polarized communities with contending groups that have stopped listening to opposing viewpoints and have demonized those who subscribe to them.
  • A preliminary assessment, done by the convening group using the strategies discussed in Planning Step 2, above, should review historical and current community divisions, whether the community might be susceptible to civil unrest, the likely costs (broadly defined to include property damage, police overtime expenses, violence, and continuing bitterness) of civil unrest, and the potential benefits of avoiding civil unrest.
  • Advocacy groups may worry that planning might undermine their efforts to gain attention for issues. But planning to resolve issues at the earliest possible stage does not mean avoiding conflict. Nor does it mean that the conflict will not become contentious.
  • Instead, the goal of planning would be to promote discussion of potential issues and develop options for resolving conflicts before they are allowed to simmer or cause polarization within the community.
  • A further goal would be to handle civil unrest more effectively, should it occur, by
    • Having protocols in place for communications: who does what among various parts of government and law enforcement,
    • Seeking engagement of leaders within communities of interest,
    • Developing a process for dealing with underlying problems, and
    • Outlining protocol for maintaining trust in public officials throughout such a crisis.
  • Ultimately the planning would aim to give interest groups an outlet for expressing concerns before people believe that they must escalate their actions in order to gain attention for the issues.