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One day in the life of a participation coordinator

What does the person taking care of working with the public for the city hall do? 


What does a day in the life of a participation coordinator look like?


So, meet Karel who has been coordinating participation in an unnamed Prague district for the second year. He’s on his way to the office right now and has just picked up his first coffee.


He sits down and gets comfortable in his chair then turns on his computer. He is having a good day so far, which is why he ventures on the oficial district’s social media to read some comments. It takes barely ten minutes to count over thirty profanities. He writes down the more creative ones.


The entries clearly suggest that people are worried about the square revitalisation. It has been discussed for several years but the next steps are still unclear. Karel finishes his coffee, answers the last hateful comment, and begins writing. In a short article, he explains that the architectural studies for the revitalisation are done and starting today there is a series of workshops where the public can comment on them. He highlights that, of course, all local residents are invited.


His phone rings while he’s writing. “The website says something about a strategic plan but what does it mean?” – his colleague asks. Karel replies that a sociological survey has just concluded. Based on its results, the first version of the district’s strategy will now be drafted.


The calling colleague thanks him and hangs up. Karel checks the article and corrects a few typos. As soon as he publishes it, he rushes to a meeting which starts in another building in a few minutes. He packs his notes and hurries across the street to see the head of the communication department.


At the next meeting, he sits down with a second coffee. This time he and the strategic plan team need to talk about the survey results and next steps. Karel hopes to leave for lunch with substantial and actionable data but in the end he leaves with nothing but a growling stomach.


After lunch, he checks his emails again. Where can I see what the district is planning? Anything else planned besides revitalization? Do you have an app for this information?


The phone rings again. It is the mayor calling. There is no catering for the meeting with the public this evening. Karel does not panic. He looks through his contact list in search of a substitute. It takes a few calls. He negotiates about the price. All this has become Karel’s bread and butter a long time ago.


He spends most of his afternoons in the field. From the office, he heads to the square that his office plans to start revitalizing. First, they need to tell people about it. That is why Karel and some of his colleagues from the city hall are setting up a tent in the square, which contains key information about the project and visualizations of the architectural studies. For the next few hours, people can come to have a look at them and ask for any details.


A couple of passers-by are interested. Karel successfully answers the questions. When he is finished, he notices a man in a bowler hat approaching him. His cheeks are red, and he rushes at Karel like a speeding locomotive. He lunges at him with no hesitation. At this moment, Karel is the city hall, and this gentleman has at least a dozen problems with how it functions.


Karel listens to everything and when the man finally stops shouting, he asks him for more information about what troubles him. It takes a good half an hour but Karel gets several suggestions for revitalization. Plus a helping hand to remove the tent a few hours later. The other colleagues return to the office or go home, but Karel has one last job to do.


In the evening, he runs a workshop with the public. Upon arrival, he refreshes himself with a meal that he has arranged earlier. He talks with a few active citizens who have arrived before the start, waits for a few stragglers, and gets down to facilitation. He introduces the revitalization studies and their authors. With pointed questions, he helps people identify what they are having trouble with and keeps the discussion calm and free of any unnecessary bickering.


Karel leaves the workshop with notes that he has yet to turn into a protocol but he will probably get to that tomorrow. At least he won’t start another day on social media.


Do you want to know what else participation coordinators have to deal with during their work?  Do you want to experience this kind of work for yourself? Are you thinking about creating a similar position in your office and do not know how to get started? Write to us at  info@participationfactory.com.