From Parts 1 & 2 of this series, we begin to see how much can be accomplished by authentic, transparent community engagement – the power of gardening in the front yard.
The following are some of my observations as we’ve worked to put transparent engagement into practice in the various organizations we have founded over the years. These are in no particular order, nor are they intended to prove any particular point except that there is much to think about as we consider doing our work in the most engaged and authentic way possible.
- Transparent community engagement starts by sharing the end goal, and only then engages the means brought to the mix by others. What makes the brew rich, then, is not just the shared means, but the larger goal that creates the context for the conversation. “Why is this important? What is important about it? What does it make possible?”
- Transparent community engagement leaves little room for organizational ego – it is not about seeking acknowledgment for how smart we are. Instead, it is about eliciting and trusting the wisdom of others, and trusting that wisdom will improve our chances of achieving our shared goals.
- Transparent community engagement lets us see how many people want our cause to succeed. It shows who is paying attention – often way more people than we realize. (That became so clear to us in our Facebook discussion!)
- Transparent community engagement leads to more transparent engagement. When we’ve done it once and experienced its power, we want to do it again. We become more aware of opportunities to open up. We begin to see people who care everywhere we look.
- Transparency is 2-way. We tend to think in terms of others’ ability to see in, but it’s also about our seeing out. When we live closed-up, we never realize the reason we find it so hard to connect is that we only think we are reaching out. In truth, the only time many organizations “reach out” is when they need something (volunteers, donations). They are cracking the door open just enough to let in that thing they need, and then closing it back up again before anyone can come in and make themselves at home.
- Which leads to my last observation – that being closed-up is about fear. “What if they steal my idea? What if they think I’m wrong / dumb / etc.? What if they take my funding?” Transparent community engagement – trusting others – is the path of quiet bravery.
That’s my top-of-the-head list. What thoughts occur to you about transparent community engagement? What has your experience been? Please share!
Learn how your organization can deeply engage your own community, with the Community Engagement Action Kit.
Photo: One of Earl’s sunflowers’ progeny