11.003J | Spring 2016 | Undergraduate

Methods of Policy Analysis


Assignment 3 – Observe a Public Meeting

Due Session 12

Observe a Public Meeting


Attend a public meeting in the Boston area, take careful notes on the event, and report back in a succinct, well-organized informational memo. Be sure to also collect any materials distributed at the event for reference. Your memo should describe the organization, discuss where its power originates, identify the purpose of the meeting, explain the structure of the deliberative process used to collect input, and discuss what, if any, outcome resulted.


This exercise is meant to help you exercise your skills of observation, and to help you understand how the public can be involved in decision-making. You might consider questions you’d like to ask our upcoming guest, David Goodman (who attends public meetings on behalf of the New York Times), based on your experience with this assignment.

Appropriate Meetings

There is a list of links to public meetings in the Assignments section. Ideally, the meeting you choose will engage a combination of planning professionals and community stakeholders, and we encourage you to avoid routine business meetings for government bodies such as city councils (these may be listed as “open to the public,” but are not designed to function as planning meetings that involve public participation).

Structure and Format

Each public meeting will have a different purpose and will thereby lend itself to a different memo structure. In general, your memo should be informational and facilitate a quick analysis. You may refer to the guidelines on effective memos posted on the course website for ideas on section organization.

Your memo should be no more than two pages, and it should be single-spaced, but make use of white space to maintain legibility.