Get a Head Start on Planning Your 2018 Communities Talk Event
It’s never too early to start preparing for your 2018 Communities Talk: Town Hall Meetings to Prevent Underage Drinking event. To help you get started, be sure to check out the resources on the StopAlcoholAbuse.gov Communities Talk website, including the Getting Started, Tips and Resources, and State Resources pages. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Strategic Prevention Framework is another good resource to help you conduct a community assessment to determine what resources could benefit your community. You can also subscribe to the StopAlcoholAbuse.gov e-mail distribution list for the latest federal news and information about underage drinking prevention.
As you begin the planning process, it’s important to identify your community’s needs so you can build your event to focus on those issues. Conduct interviews or focus groups with community members to learn more about what issues they think are important. For example, parents may worry about reports of kids abusing prescription and over-the-counter medications; law enforcement officials may be concerned about softening attitudes toward marijuana; and schools may be focused on test scores and graduation rates. Identifying what issues are top of mind will allow you to tailor your event and help these audiences recognize how underage drinking may contribute to these issues.
In addition to collecting information directly from your community and partners, look for sources of local data to see what types of issues the youth in your community are facing related to underage drinking. The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monitors youth and young adult behaviors, such as tobacco and alcohol use, that can contribute to negative consequences. And the Monitoring the Future survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse measures drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes among adolescent students nationwide.
Now is also a great time to establish and fortify strategic partnerships. You may already have an extensive partner network, but it’s important to think about ways to expand or strengthen your partnerships while you’re planning events. Your partners are vital to maximizing your reach, promoting your message, and supporting your prevention efforts with in-kind contributions.
Think about the best format to engage your community. You don’t have to stick to a typical town hall meeting format if you know your audience would be more excited to attend a different type of event. No matter what format you choose, remember that you’ll attract more participants and get people more excited about an event that offers a unique or fun experience. For inspiration, check out the Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change Success Story from 2016 to see how one community framed the conversation about underage drinking in a creative way and got more participants involved and engaged than ever before.
As you gear up for the 2018 Communities Talk event cycle and host events in 2017, remember that preventing underage drinking in your community can yield big rewards in terms of health, safety, academic achievement, employment, stable families, and safe communities.