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    Written by Luke Hohmann
    on June 02, 2015

    In April, we began working with the Los Altos School District (LASD) on a project to tackle the district's growing enrollment population.  Part of our mandate is to help the LASD improve community engagement, enabling a wider segment of the population to explore options and reach consensus to solve these problems.  With $150 million in bond money on the table, the district felt it was critical to get broad input into the decision process from the community.

    "We want to make sure we have a representative sample of our community,” Superintendent Jeff Baier told the Los Altos Town Crier. “We want to tease out new ideas and reactions to what is being presented. Then through conversations, new opinions can be formed and eventually consensus.”


    On April 22, the Conteneo team, led by Laura Richardson, and the Los Altos School district kicked offthe project with a community meeting to begin the necessary work to complete the “framing” of the problem for the next phase of the project where 100s of Los Altos residents will participate in structured online discussions using Conteneo's Strategy Engine to find common ground regarding the district's options for tackling the enrollment growth issue.

    More than 100 Los Alto School District parents, teachers, administrators and interested residents attended he "open to all" public meeting where they were able to share their ideas, thoughts and concerns on how to handle the growing enrollment. The Conteneo facilitation team used the collaborative framework called Speed Boat to structure the conversations with the goal of uncovering where people were confused and where they needed facts.

    "The Speed Boat collaboration framework may look a little simple at first," said Laura Richardson, vice president of sales at Conteneo,"but it's an effective way to solicit new ideas from people who might not normally give feedback at public meetings. Public meetings might feel like open mic night, and it can be incredibly difficult to get information from everyone. The few people who actually get a chance to talk are an incredibly small percentage of the community."

    Richardson continued,  "While this input is important, it is not sufficient.  LASD really wanted to find a way to include citizens who are unable to attend public meetings.  By going online, we can give people an opportunity to express their ideas even if the only time they can do so is at 6:30 am in the morning.”

    When the online Strategy Engine forums begin, participants will be seeking to find common ground, exploring three options around the enrollment growth issue, including one created from the actions and drawbacks gleaned from the public meeting.  For more information regarding the engagement or Strategy Engine, contact us at 

    Let us know what you think. 

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