Uniting Voices, Building Resilience: The Power of Engagement

Cultivating community consensus is a central objective of public engagement. Beyond its customary role in future planning, civic engagement and mediation skills are also vital in the wake of local tragedies. Expert public engagement and mediation prove indispensable, not only for fostering unity during challenging times but also for preventing further divisions within the community.

That’s why, when tragedy struck Virginia Beach, the community brought in Larry Schooler, one of the League’s Senior Fellows. Throughout his career, Larry has dedicated himself to offering mediation, facilitation, consensus-building, and public engagement services. His expertise has consistently played a crucial role in empowering communities and municipalities, ensuring that diverse voices are not only heard but also brought together during challenging times.

Larry worked with Virginia Beach to facilitate a memorial planning process honoring the 12 individuals who were killed on May 31, 2019, when a gunman opened fire at the Municipal Center in Virginia Beach. He and his team provided facilitation services to the 5/31 Memorial Committee and Family and Survivor Liaison throughout the memorial planning process.

During this extremely sensitive process Larry ensured that the thoughts and priorities of the community and families of the victims were not only listened to but actually incorporated into the city’s plans.

Working with the 5/31 Memorial Committee, Dr. Schooler helped create firm protocols for meeting structure and consensus-building as well as a vision for the memorial. While advocating for the families and survivors, he guided the community through a transparent process open to interested members of the public and stakeholders. This process, constantly driven by public input, resulted in design goals and recommendations for the memorial site, as well as funding for the memorial.

Dr. Larry Schooler is a Senior Director at Kearns & West, where he provides mediation, facilitation, consensus-building, and public engagement consulting to local, state, and federal agencies and nonprofit organizations. He is also a member of the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin, where he teaches courses in conflict resolution and facilitative leadership.

Larry holds a doctoral degree in conflict analysis and resolution, along with a bachelor’s degree in history. He is the author “The ‘Public’ in Public Policy: Keys to a Successful Community Meeting” and a forthcoming book on the first Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the United States.

The League and our Senior Fellows provide national expertise to support local, public engagement efforts with:

  • Innovations to improve official public meetings
  • Strategies for advancing equity and measuring progress
  • Engagement opportunities for youth and older adults
  • Supports for neighborhoods and local online networks to help them build community, engage more people, and connect with government
  • Expert advice on city charters and other foundational documents
  • Skill-building opportunities for staff, elected officials, and traditional and nontraditional community leaders.

Read more about our community assistance offerings to see how Larry Schooler and our other senior fellows and staff can help your community. Email us at [email protected] if you’re interested in working with Larry and the League.

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