Community Engagement Planning: Meeting #2 Summary DETAIL

The following are the detailed notes from our June 27, 2022 Community Engagement Planning conversation.

Prior Meeting Recap
During our first meeting, we asked the first question of Catalytic Thinking: Who will be affected? After coming up with a long list, we then discussed why community engagement is important, what makes it good when it is good, and what we have experienced. The words that popped out during our conversation were: trust, authenticity, communication, two-way mutual accountability, listening, connection, and slow. At our second meeting, we began talking about the next question of Catalytic Thinking: What could engagement make possible?

What does engagement make possible for the people impacted? What has engagement made possible for you?

  • It has helped me ask different questions when it counts and look forward to the future state I want to see. It sets me and my team up to look at things differently.
  • Engagement allows us to honestly stop for a moment and really think about what we want to say and also to really listen to what other people are saying. It provides perspective and context for where people are coming from.
  • Engagement turns into empowerment. We have to rethink how we define community. Our organizations communities in and of themselves, as well as subsets of larger communities.
  • The pandemic has been really bad in how it accelerated some trends – one of these is that we’re losing our ability to talk to each other and disagree civilly with each other. Engagement offers an opportunity to practice these skills. Another of these is loneliness. People are lonely and opportunities for people to connect have to be a good thing.
  • As I participate, I get more “a-ha” moments about what can be possible. Having a common space to ask questions from allows everyone to be included and come with their passions. Engagement in this way disperses power to any one in the room who can ask a question. We’re often so focused on action and doing that we don’t take time to think deeply, but thinking is an action.
  • Engagement allows you to squash your own assumptions. Assumptions are about me, not about you, and until we engage, I believe certain things about you. Once we engage, I begin changing my beliefs.
  • Sometimes, we need to step away to give space to be heard to the people who are most impacted. You can show up as an ally, but make sure that the people at the microphone are the people who are most impacted by the issue.
  • The things that people say parenthetically (as an aside or under their breath) are often the things that are most important to them.
  • Engagement makes possible getting beyond the savior complex.
  • Our work is more successful because we are building solutions that actually meet people’s needs, it is more sustainable because we have built it together, and it ultimately builds power and capacity within the group so I am no longer needed.
  • It allows people and gives them a space to reflect on what they want and need.
  • A recent engagement opportunity led local city planners to consider the question of “What are the rights of nature in the context of development?”
  • Engagement helps to eliminate that barrier between us and them. I have been doing a personal thought experiment around using collective language as much as possible – for example saying “us” or “we” instead of “they” or “them.” I’m struggling a little bit with how that fits into this conversation. Are the distinctions we’re currently making between us and them real or are they things we’ve constructed?
  • One of the things we always talk about with community engagement is that people go OUT to the community, as if it is a thing that only exists “out there.”
  • When I talk to people about when they felt engaged, they almost always say that they were learning. So it wasn’t just one-way. They also say something about connection. The idea of engagement is not defined by the engaging party, but by the engagee. It’s not the activity, but being engaged is an emotional response to what you’re doing. It’s not just that people can affect change, it’s that they can affect change in alignment with what their passions are.
  • Engagement brings out an expression of who you are.
  • Engagement speaks to those things I have a passion for. It makes me feel connected and like I can make a difference.
  • Meeting and getting to know more people. It makes you feel like you’re expanding your reach, ability, and knowledge.
  • Engagement makes connection possible
  • Engagement allows people to feel valued and that what you bring to the table is worthwhile. These build connection and the want to come back and keep going.
  • In the book Age of Anger: A History of the Present by Pankaj Mishra, the author talks about how we lost our context during the Age of Enlightenment when we begin to replace religion with science. Even if our context caused harm, we knew what it was and where we fit within it. Since then, we’ve been dealing with increasing alienation and individualism that sets us apart from each other. We’ve created a society where our context is based around not valuing each other.
  • By engaging people, I get to work a lot less. I find someone who is really passionate about something and it takes it off of my plate. But I’m not necessarily doing less, I’m just able to do more about what I’m passionate about
  • When we engage with like-minded people it gives encouragement and energy to work through the friction that happens when people are in relationship with each other. Being around like-minded people gives that sense of hope and community all in one. It also often ends up being a lot of fun.
  • This is all making me think about the mental health crisis among children right now and I wonder if I have engaged enough.
  • Being engaged brings me a great deal of joy and I like to think that I can bring joy to others.
  • I keep thinking about how much we don’t listen to other people. So often, people are invited to check off a box, but are never actually listened to. Real engagement is the antidote to this.
  • Real engagement has to be joyful – absolutely – but it also has to be a little bit uncomfortable. If it’s not uncomfortable, we’re likely only engaging in those spaces we already know.
  • A recent example in a conversation about paving a road – people had a lot of opinions about whether the road should be paved or not, but it’s not about pavement. So, we need to figure out what it’s really about – is it safety? A dust-free house? Etc. If we only ask about the pavement, we’re not asking the right question to create understanding.
  • Engagement makes validation possible. People feel validated and worthy. That creates a sense of stability and security and builds confidence to actively construct the world. When you are in a state of despair, you aren’t inclined to create, so we need to flip that switch. If people feel valued, they are less likely to feel desperation and are able to create.
  • All of these things make a better world possible.
  • This creates the opportunity for unity, action, and joy.
  • Engagement makes it possible to work together even if we don’t agree. There is no arriving with the answer, only working together to get there.
  • This will give you the belief that there is a way to affect change and the confidence that you can be a part of it.
  • Engagement in this way gives people dignity. Our standard models are often based around doing things to people, but the models that give me the most hope are about doing things with people.
  • A hope that we can reduce tribalism.
  • If nothing else, if people feel valued, engaged and like they belong, they are less likely to commit violence. We often talk about getting to the “plus one,” but there’s also something around this idea of just getting to zero right now.

What does this type of engagement make possible for Creating the Future?

  • Makes a community of trust possible between Creating the Future and anyone who engages with us moving forward. Really meaningful impact can come once these people feel valued, trusted, and listened to.
  • It makes the job easier in terms of wanting to share the framework. Once other people are doing this, it means we can do less of it and focus our energies on what’s next.
  • If people are engaged, they are going to feel reflected in Creating the Future and what we’re going to be doing in the future.
  • Due to COVID, there’s an opportunity to begin again in many ways.
  • So many of our systems are rooted in the business world, so we often emulate a very “I” focused approach to ideas and program development. There is something powerful in co-designing and co-creating what is next so that it’s co-owned. There’s so much talk about “buy-in,” but people don’t need to be bought in if it’s theirs.
  • The bottom line is that the mission is successful. The only way we can accomplish these things in our community, is if we stop trying to do them to our communities.
  • Thinking about ecosystems and monocultures. My idea for me is a monoculture, but engaging with others is an ecosystem. One can be resilient and the other can break.
  • Engaging with others gives all parties more energy. We waste so much energy based on assumptions that we end up battling each other, battling ideas, whatever. We spend more energy on that than building the world.
  • It’s almost like we’re justifying doing this, but I’m also thinking about “What is the risk if we don’t do this?” The best ideas don’t come from within organizations.
  • When I think about engagement for our mission – which is to a concept, not a task, the goal is to ripple out. The engagement is actually the mission.
  • I’ve been thinking about the decline of membership organizations. Part of the problem is that leadership of these organizations has been professionalized and as they become professionalized, they become distant from the membership.
  • New approaches are going to become possible.


  • I’m thinking about the word engagement and being engaged. I’m engaged in this meeting. When I’m engaged, I lose track of time. Engagement so covers you entirely, that you lose track of everything else. And these meetings do that. I never believe two hours have passed.
  • The idea of seeing yourself reflected in something bigger and feeling a part of that. It’s both being connected to a collective and diverse group, but it’s also seeing yourself in that.
  • These meetings continue to make engagement a priority, not an afterthought. This is a way of being.
  • Engaging with others gives you more energy. We need that connection with other people.
  • Effective engagement can bring equitable opportunities for members of the community to come together and co-own it.
  • I have a big appreciation for everyone on the call. I am always reminded of that on these calls. This work is a bright light in a dark world.
  • The conversation is really rich and it never quite feels like we’re working during these meetings.
  • I’ve only just met most of you, yet you’ve touched my heart. I can feel that I feel love for each of you and I feel loved from each of you. You’ve touched my heart and sparked my brain.
  • I’ve been listening and learning a lot. I study this area, so I’ve been thinking about the readings and studying I’ve been doing. This is so important to make us be human and see others as human and can even extend to non-humans, when we think about the earth and the world. In Designs for the Pluriverse, author Arturo Escobar makes the point that we’re all designers and we’re all designed. This seems to be the essence of what we’re talking about. I’m also thinking about Mariame Kaba naming hope as a discipline.
  • We’ve been skirting around the “L” word, the “Love” word for two hours and it finally came out. Why can’t we talk about it? I’m thinking about not teaching engagement, but making giving and sharing the paradigm that people exist within.
  • Going back to the question – “What would it be like if people were engaged?” There were so many great answers and I was so back at the beginning of – people would be willing to speak up, to not be worried about how they would sound, etc. If people felt like that, then we could shift the attention from all the ways we’ve failed to do this until now. We can’t walk away from our failures, but it doesn’t have to be top of mind. And if we didn’t have that, then we just get to begin again and hold ourselves to the future we want.
  • There are some times there may be an awkward silence before the answer to the question, but I’ve already learned with this group that this is not an indication that “I don’t care.” It’s more about wanting to provide a meaningful concept. The word engage is a beginning and a commitment. Where does that take us? To more commitment and a more meaningful world.
  • Thinking a lot about the previous statements of energy and ecosystems. And ecosystems don’t panic. If something is out of balance, it just pivots the energy to where it is needed the most. I’m thinking about a future where we as humans act as part of that and just know what we need to do to fill the needs of each other.

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