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Educating a community about underage drinking is only the first step in preventing this problem. The ultimate goal of a Town Hall Meeting is to be a catalyst for change by moving a community beyond awareness to evidence-based action. Event organizers can best achieve this goal by focusing a community’s attention on how it can reduce or eliminate specific environmental conditions that facilitate underage drinking.

Tips on Organizing a Solution-Focused Event

Organizations that hosted Town Hall Meetings leading to positive change recommend that event organizers:

  • Involve youth in planning and conducting a well-informed event and in identifying workable solutions;
  • Build the meeting agenda around a community assessment of conditions that are contributing to underage drinking;
  • Connect the focus of the event to a specific objective (e.g., stronger enforcement of existing laws or policy change) rather than to underage drinking in general;
  • Use a skilled facilitator to focus the conversation on solutions rather than complaints about the difficulties of prevention;
  • Establish what specific actions will follow the event and who will carry them out;
  • Have an infrastructure in place to conduct event followup; and
  • Ensure that attendees know the event is part of a much larger effort, such as state and federal underage drinking prevention initiatives.

Steps in Organizing a Solution-Focused Event

Baseball legend Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might wind up someplace else.” Knowing where you want the community to be at the meeting’s end, and mapping the route to get there, is a carefully planned process involving:

  • Assessment, to define the underage drinking problem and a community’s needs, capacity, and readiness to respond;
  • Planning, to design an event in ways that help ensure that its objectives will be met;
  • Evaluation, to determine if the Town Hall Meeting was effective as a catalyst for change.

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