Recovery Town Hall Meetings are forums that allow advocates to have their voices heard on the issues and solutions most impacting their community. The purpose of the forum is to convene local decision makers in a way that allows them to listen to topic experts, people with lived experience, and advocates in order to better understand the needs of the community.
Organizing Recovery Town Hall Meetings can translate to local policies, practices, and collaborations that help those directly impacted by addiction or those living lives in recovery.
Each community is unique, but the one thing that every community has is people who are responsible for making decisions for residents.
When we think about local Decision Makers in communities around our issues, the list could look something like this
Recovery Advocates and Organizations from all over the country have benefited from organizing different versions of these local Recovery Town Hall Meetings. Here is a step by step guide and some best practices so you can work towards organizing your own Recovery Town Hall Meeting.
Organizing a Recovery Town Hall Meeting will be much easier with a team of other advocates that care about the same issues you do and want to highlight solutions at an event.
You may already have some organizing committee members in mind if you have a local advocacy team (HOW TO Host a monthly recovery advocacy team meeting) or if you have worked to build your recovery advocacy base (HOW TO Build your Advocacy base and sustain it)
A good size committee for this project would be 6 -10 individuals.
Step 1 and Step 2 could be interchangeable. You may have already identified an issue to focus on and assembled your committee based on that issue. If that is not the case, the first task for your organizing committee is to choose a topic that will draw interest to your Recovery Town Hall Meeting.
Choosing a topic will also direct the type of community event you are convening. For example, the topic of “Understanding Addiction and Recovery” could be an educational forum, while a topic like “Solutions to the local Addiction Epidemic” sounds both educational and a call to action.
When choosing a topic, the committee should consider the type of Town Hall meeting you want to organize and ask if your topic has the following criteria:
Some example topics for your Recovery Town Hall Meeting may include:
Location: Location is key to putting on a successful event. With your committee, identify potential community buildings in the area that could host the amount of people you would expect to attend the event. Members of the committee may have existing relationships with people that work at facilities that could host the Recovery Town Hall.
Some potential ideas for facilities could include:
Date/Time of Event: Based on the many events that have been organized all over the country by recovery advocates and organizations, it is recommended that your committee takes 3-4 months to plan an impactful event.
It may be easier to schedule the event after people generally are out of work, like 6-8PM on a Wednesday. You may want to offer food or snacks, if possible.
Be sure to schedule the event with enough time in advance to promote the event, gain media attention, and secure the invitees and selected advocate speakers.
There are a number of different formats to Town Hall Meetings that can accomplish what the committee is working to do. When deciding on a format, it is important to not only think about the end result and purpose of the Recovery Town Hall meeting, but also consider the message and who will be most impactful in delivering that message to the attendees and even potential media.
Here are three formats that will shape how your committee proceeds in organizing the Recovery Town Hall event. Your committee may find that they could use a format that combines two or all of these styles.
A Speaker Forum is a Recovery Town Hall that highlights a number of pre-selected speakers and stories around the same topic. This format would be ideal if you want to highlight the stories of those with lived experience that are directly impacted.
For example, your committee may want to plan a Recovery Town Hall with the topic of “Many Pathways to Recovery” in which the event has 6 individuals speaking about their own pathway to recovery. Or the committee may want to plan an event around Recovery Support Services in which six different speakers highlight a Recovery Support that has helped them.
Benefits of potentially using this format:
Things you will need for a successful Recovery Town Hall using the Speaker Forum format
An Educational/Awareness Forum is a Recovery Town Hall that is primarily meant to feature an expert on a particular topic. This format would be ideal if the goal of your Recovery Town Hall is tackle an issue that requires a specialist to explain.
For example, your committee may want to plan a Town Hall with the topic of “The Science of Addiction and Recovery” where there is a presentation by an Addiction expert, followed by a short conversation with the community Decision Makers.
This format also works to highlight Motivational Speakers.
Benefits of potentially using this format:
Things you will need for a successful Recovery Town Hall using the Educational/Awareness Forum format
A Decision Maker Forum is a Recovery Town Hall format that focuses a majority of the discussion between the decision makers on the selected topic, and then often leaves room for questions from audience members.
This type of format usually features some sort of panel in the front of the room, and a facilitator to guide the conversation of the panel of Decision Makers, and Question and Answer Session after the panel discussion.
This format would be ideal if the committee wanted to highlight some successful programs and solutions that may already be happening in the community. For example, your committee may want to plan a Recovery Town Hall with the topic of “Addressing the Addiction Crisis: A community response” and feature an Elected Official, a Law Enforcement Officer, a Health Care worker, a Program Director for Peer Recovery Support, and an Educator.
Benefits of potentially using this format:
Things you will need for a successful Recovery Town Hall using the Decision Maker Forum format
One of the most effective promotional tools will be a flyer for the Recovery Town Hall but your promotion shouldn’t stop there. If you’re a Recovery Advocacy Project Leader you have access to creating online event registration pages using Action Network. This should be the standard practice for all community events to capture people who’ve registered so you can send reminders and thank you emails for the event. All RAP Leaders have access to RAP assets for your flyer design in the files section of your Action Network group (like logos, banner images, photos, etc.), plus, the RAP Organizing team is always available to help answer any questions you have.
This step will make other organizing steps a lot easier. Keep in mind, this promotional tool can change as your committee organizes (For example: In the event you confirm Decision Makers or additional partners, you may need to add logos for non-profit or local businesses to the promotional flyer and online event page) The tools could begin with a simple “Save the Date” to a version with more details, logos, and confirmed Decision Makers.
The promotional tools can serve many purposes for your Recovery Town Hall including:
The promotional tool should include the following:
Sample Description on Flyer
“Addiction affects many families in our community. This Recovery Town Hall Meeting will bring together people in recovery from addiction, their loved ones and allies, with our local elected officials and decision makers to work towards community solutions to the addiction crisis. All are welcome to attend.”
Many recovery advocates and organizations across the country have partnered with their local business and non-profits to show strength as a community, as well as increase the word of mouth and audience of the Recovery Town Hall.
Organizing a Recovery Town Hall can accomplish more than educating decision makers or the public, raising awareness, or creating a call to action around an issue. It is important for your committee to look at this project as a way to potentially create new partnerships, allies, and connections. You and your committee will find allies just waiting to support your goals.
Many local business owners or non-profits will partner with your committee if asked. Use the Promotional Tool from Step 3 to approach these potential partners.
Once you have established the date, time, location and topic of the Recovery Town Hall it is time to put together your list of Decision Makers to invite.
Your committee should use the list below to come up with the names and contact information to invite your community Decision Makers. Many of your invitees can be invited by email or phone, but some of your committee members may know them personally, so they should deliver the invite or make the ask.
The most effective way to build your audience and mobilize people to your event is through strong outreach to local recovery non-profits, treatment centers, mental health groups, recovery and family groups, recovery houses, prevention and harm reduction groups, and working to get commitments of how many people each group can deliver to the Recovery Town Hall.
In addition to word of mouth and using the promotional flyer, there are many tools available online your committee may opt to use to reach more audiences and increase attendance to the Recovery Town Hall.
Here are a few tools Recovery Advocates and Recovery Organizations have found helpful.
Action Network Events
If you are a Recovery Advocacy Project State or Regional Leader, you have access to a suite of advocacy and community organizing tools at no cost through your Action Network account. This pallet of tools gives you everything you need to plan and promote a successful Town Hall. The standard for all Recovery Advocacy Project Leaders should be to create an event action in Action Network and share this event page online and through email once it’s created.
If you’re not a Recovery Advocacy Project Leader, you can easily contact your state lead and collaborate on your Town Hall event. Utilizing your State Leader will greatly benefit the attendance and success of your event.
Eventbrite is a free tool that allows people to RSVP to an event.
Having an Eventbrite link associated with the promotional tool for the Recovery Town Hall has many advantages that includes
Create a Facebook Event Page
Click here for a step by step guide with pictures on how to set up a Facebook Event.
Creating a Facebook Event Page has many advantages including
The entire Organizing Committee should all work to invite locals on their Facebook Friends list. You can also add multiple hosts to your Facebook Events and ask other organizations to list your event on their organization’s Facebook page so it will display under their upcoming events too.
Use Recovery Advocacy Project’s Social Media Toolkit
The Recovery Advocacy Project has developed a Social Media Toolkit that could help raise the profile of your event across many social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Blogs and others.
The Social Media Toolkit has suggestions for hashtags and graphics that could assist you in reaching a larger audience while promoting your Recovery Town Hall.
The Recovery Advocacy Project’s Social Media Toolkit can be found here.
Building relationships with local media can take time. Getting local media to cover your event reaches an audience outside the event itself.
Here are a few steps to take that will increase the potential of media turnout.
Create a list of local media outlets – (Be sure to update this list as much as possible moving forward, as outlets change. List should include:
1. Identify appropriate contact for each media outlet.
Journalists are often assigned an area of expertise. You should be able to find the right media contact by searching for past articles on addiction, health, or community events.
2. Pitch a human interest story
Contact your list of journalists with event information with a human interest story. Personalize each greeting to attempt to build a relationship with that media contact.
A good human interest story could potentially be one of your speakers for the event, a local advocacy effort, or a response to something the journalist covered in a past media piece.
Your correspondence should cover why they should cover the Recovery Town Hall, the human interest story, and a contact for more information. You, or someone on your committee should be a designated contact for media.
Be sure to have a media sign in sheet at the Recovery Town Hall.
Your Organizing Team may option to offer a trusted media contact the Facilitator role.
Here are a few articles to read that have additional pointers on getting local media.
The format of the Recovery Town Hall most likely will require someone that can facilitate the event.
The role of the Facilitator is to welcome the Town Hall participants, keep the program moving and focused, introduce guests and speakers, and make sure the event is running on time.
Ideally, the Facilitator should:
Suggestions for Facilitator: