Surveys are a good tool from getting feedback from large numbers of people. Townhall events, on the other hand, are a great way to gather more nuanced feedback from a smaller number of people

WHAT is townhall event?

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Townhall events gather together various stakeholders from the clinic community to discuss ways to improve the clinic.

They are discussions where everyone’s voice is valued. Working together, the group can brainstorm improvements for the clinic. These events should be carefully curated to minimize the role of the facilitator and maximize the contribution from participants.

  • Townhalls tend to work best when they focus on a specific issue rather than general clinic improvement.

  • One option is to take a specific issue revealed from your survey data and use townhalls as a way to figure out how you could best address those issues.

  • For example, imagine that your survey results reveal that patients are finding it difficult to access mental healthcare. In order to effectively address this issue, clinic leaders need to understand why patients are having these difficulties. They can learn more by creating an environment where patients feel comfortable sharing their opinions.

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WHO should be present at these events?

  • All members of the clinic community should be a part of your dissemination plan, but you may want to present results differently to each group.

  • For example, will staff and providers feel comfortable sharing their opinions if clinic leadership are there? Will patients feel comfortable sharing their experiences in the same room as their provider?

  • Think creatively about blending smaller group discussions that report back to larger group activities to plan for clinic improvements. These small groups are likely to encourage involvement for all participants.

  • Depending on your goals, consider distributing people with different roles and backgrounds throughout the groups. For example, patients, providers, and staff may be evenly distributed throughout the small groups

WHEN and WHERE should townhall events occur?

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It can be difficult to find a time and place that is convenient for all stakeholders in your clinic community. Here are some tips for making it work.

The members of your clinic community know your clinic and the neighborhood around it. Consider holding an event either directly in your clinic. If you decide to hold an event outside of the clinic, here are some places to consider:

  • Public library meeting rooms

  • Private room at a coffee shop or restaurant

  • Community centers

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Carefully evaluate when is the best time to hold your townhall event.

  • Holding an event during the workday, especially during a lunch hour, may make it easier for some clinic staff to attend, but it may require finding others who can cover for them. Similarly, some patients may be able to attend during the day, but those who work may have difficulty attending a day time session.

  • Evening townhalls may be easier for staff and providers if they are willing. However, it may be difficult for patients to attend, especially if they have children or other dependents. If you decide to have an evening townhall, consider offering childcare to those who need it and allowing staff and providers time off to balance out their work.

Other things to consider:

  • If your townhall will be during lunch or dinner time, consider providing a healthy meal. This not only serves as nice reward for those who attend, but eating together can also increase how much the group trusts each other.

  • How will participants get to your townhall? Do you need to help provide transportation?

townhall events are informed by a philosophy of community engagement and citizen professionalism. for more background, please see the following resources:

The Citizen Professional Center

Citizen Health Care: A model for engaging patients, families, and communities as coproducers of health