A Grab Bag of Community Engagement Resources

Community engagement means different things to different people.

The more we have been diving into our own community engagement efforts, the more we’ve focused on what it means to be “in community with the people whose lives are touched by our work.” Beyond a transactional tactic for getting people to help an organization (so often the intent of “engagement” efforts), we have been talking about what it takes to create real bonds, real friendship, real relationships.

If you’ve wanted to create more of a bond
between your social change efforts and the people in your community,
we hope these resources help you do just that.

If you just need a tip or two, we’ve got you covered. If, on the other hand, you’re feeling ready to dive into the deep end, to change the way you think about Community Engagement (and especially if you feel like you’ve tried everything and nothing works), you’ll find great ideas and aha’s in the discussions linked here as well.

As always, if you try something, please let us know what happens. That’s the only way we can all grow together, sharing what we learn and what we experience.

Tips and Tools

5 Tips for Effective Community Engagement

Engaging Unlikely Allies for Your Cause: Part 1 and Part 2

Community Engagement Exercise: Ripples in the pond
This exercise is great for uncovering potential allies / community members to engage

The Action Plan that resulted from our own Community Engagement work is at this link, where you will also find the actual conversations where we designed the survey, the facilitated conversations, and the invitation to engage (as well as a testimonial video). 

In addition, Creating the Future receives a portion of the proceeds from Hildy’s books on community engagement if you use this link.

Deep Dive Discussions
Our own community engagement work at Creating the Future has not been a theoretical discussion.

We are about to ask our community members to become integrally involved in determining what’s next for Creating the Future’s mission.

And that is all dependent upon successful engagement efforts!

Our conversations all followed Catalytic Thinking (of course!), which has led us to all sorts of aha’s about what is possible. 

From “Audience” to “Participating Community Member”
Our most recent conversation was one of those discussions that none of us wanted to end!

What is the difference between an audience and a community? What does it take for people to move along the continuum from watching from the outside (an audience), to stepping into one or two activities, to then participating as they feel part of something bigger than themselves (a community member)?

In response to that discussion, one of our community members shared her own experience moving from audience member to participating community member. It is a brilliant case study, to help all of us see what that might look like for our own work. 

That whole discussion is below – in video and audio (for those who want to listen as you commute or work out). To skip past our own community-building rituals* (see the footnote at the bottom of this post for more about that ritual) and get right to the substance, start at about 21 minutes.

Star Icon Blue Download the MP3 here
(To download to your hard drive, right-click {or click and hold on a Mac} on the link above and select “Save Target As”.. or “Save Link as”… depending on your browser)

Applying Catalytic Thinking to Community Engagement
The discussions that led up to that one are a case study in applying Catalytic Thinking to this topic. To
read summaries of those discussions, or to watch / listen to them in full, the following will guide you. You will recognize the questions of Catalytic Thinking in all of it!

Our first conversation focused on the question, “Who will be affected by our engagement efforts, whether they are the supposed target of those efforts or not?” This question is the key to real inclusion, and is also a major factor in avoiding unintended consequences. We also had a deep discussion of our individual experiences with engagement – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

In our second conversation, we considered the question, “What does authentic engagement make possible for all those people who will be affected?” That conversation was so energizing! We know you will begin rethinking “engagement” just from the nuggets in that discussion.

Our third discussion was intense, as we began to determine the causes and conditions that would create the powerful results we had discussed at our 2nd meeting. Through all these conversations, the need to find different words than “Community Engagement” arose, and that was intensely clear in this 3rd conversation. The 4th conversation continued that theme, focusing on the conditions that need to be in place for true engagement to happen. And then our 5th conversation is the one above – you can find the text summary here.

Lastly, you’ll find 3 recordings at this link, where you can see Catalytic Thinking in action as we designed several pieces that will do the actual engagement – the survey, the facilitated conversations, and the invitation (as well a the testimonial video). 

We hope these resources are helpful in your own efforts to create more authentic relationships with the people who are affected by your work. Because those relationships are not just where the best work happens – they are also where the fun is!

* If you’re curious about the community-building rituals which begin all our meetings, we have found that taking time to just be human with each other allows us all to get present. Rather than the ridiculous suggestion that we “leave our baggage at the door,” we allow space to bring our whole selves into the room, to be present with each other about whatever is meaningful in our lives. In the realm of “community engagement,” we are connecting with each other as fellow community members – a reminder to be human in all our work. 



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