News & Musings

Meaningful engagement is more than a box to check, but a culture to build in our organizations and communities

Posted on Nov 05 2014

A key component of any engagement effort is the sharing of information. Yet, balanced, objective information is no replacement for relationships. When we have a shared connection, shared meaning and respect for our differences, information is heard through the filter of trust. When trust is eroded, information is filtered by emotion.   

As facilitators, community and organizational engagement practitioners we strive to be aware of relative rank, power, and privilege differences to ensure all voices are heard.  We support people to share what matters to their community, their values, interests and concerns. At the same time we encourage leaders to implement best practices that meaningful engage their employees, citizens, stakeholders and partners.

In the corporate sector there is talk about creating “shared value” and in the non-profit sector it is “collective impact”. Shared value is the term used when companies generate economic value for themselves in a way that simultaneously produces value for society by addressing social and environmental challenges. Collective impact involves a common agenda, shared measurement, mutually reinforcing activities, and continuous communication to address large-scale social and environmental problems. There are many similarities in these approaches.

Trust is essential. It is the backbone of respectful, inclusive, accessible, and accountable engagement efforts. In the Collective Impact article Paul Schmitz recommends: “Encourage the community to own the initiative, rather than “buy-in" to it and embrace open discussion and learning from worst practices rather than hiding from them”.  Yet acknowledging our mistakes or problems is not easy. Integrity and transparency are some of the building blocks for creating a culture of meaningful engagement that moves beyond business as usual.

For more on the Collective Impact Forum an Initiative of FSG and the Aspen Institute for Community Solutions:  http://collectiveimpactforum.org/blogs/38876/culture-collective-impact

For more on Shared Value see Stanford Social Innovation on Shared Value:  http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/qa_roundtable_on_shared_value/

 

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