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Community Engagement 101

A primer for community developers

Jillian Merrick

on 13 January 2015

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Transcript of Community Engagement 101

Education - Extension - Service
Is this focus on process or outcomes? People or projects?
Objectives: what's the end goal?
Use only in desperate circumstances
Does the community really need this project?
Are your partners invested in the project?
Are you complementing or competing with your partners?
Are you making the system more difficult to navigate?
Market Research: what is the environment you are operating in?
Let's do a group exercise!
1) What do you want to be known for?
(Hint: think of how this compares to other organizations)

2) What do you deliver?
(Hint: think of what your target market wants but lacks)

3) What is the desired experience you want people to have
(Hint: think of the emotional connection people will have with your organization)
Brand Exercise
What do you want to be known for?
A successful brand builds consistency, and consistency builds loyalty and trust

A brand is more than just a logo - a brand is intangible. It derived from the experience people have when they interact of:
Your organization
Your cause
Your product

Do You Need a Brand?
Community Engagement 101
Jillian's Lessons Learned
Return on Investment
Everyone is unique
Accomodating diversity can be a challenge but often produces better results
Give each member of your community the time, space, and tools they need engage in their own way.
Don't rely on a single communication channel.
Put a face to a name: be present in the community.
Always plan for a much longer engagement timeline than you think you need.
Wherever possible, get personal.
Language and authenticity are important
Participation - Engagement - Projects
What's the primary objective?
Improve community aesthetic or foster pride of place in at-risk youth?
Trade offs!
Why does it matter?
When time is ticking and resources are tight, what gets prioritized?

Mary is organizing an anti-graffiti campaign to engage at-risk youth in cleaning up the city, but the event is only two days away and she doesn't have enough volunteers. What does she do?
It's important establish clear objectives early in the process.
Better decision making by the organizer
Informed consent by the participants
Things all community engagement projects should plan for
1. Understand your objectives

2. Do you research - understand your members and what they need

3. Build a brand

4. Adapt the process to change

5. Be present. Be available.

6. Provide continuity. Always follow up.

The Basics
Example 1
John wants to create an online directory of local gyms and sports facilities. One of his colleagues points out that the town's recreation department already publishes a paper directory. Should he proceed with a separate online project?
Example 2
Susan's board is really keen on the idea of developing a community greenhouse, but no one on the board has any experience or interest in gardening. Mostly, they are interested in the opportunity it will provide for the community. Is this a feasible project for them?
Geal real: who are your participants?
Are there people out there who need/want the project or service you are offering
Do these participants have the 'ability to pay'?
Have you established trust with your participants?
Do you have the right resources to make meaningful connections?
Market Research: who is your target market?
Example 1
Anthony runs a successful after school care program in the city and has received funds to expand to the program to outlying rural areas. The funds can only be spent supplies and salaries. What are some potential problems of this expansion?
Example 2
Laura wants to run a workshop to help seniors learn basic social media skills. Because she's volunteering her time and the library has volunteered the use of their computers, she's able to offer the workshop for free! She's created a Facebook event and has emailed the local seniors' centre to encourage people to register online. How likely is she to get good participation?
Your brand will develop without or without you!
Disney is known as the best children's entertainment company
They deliver 'magic'
The experience is 'fun'
Example 1
Example 2
Meals on Wheels is the most enjoyable way to provide meals to people in need
They deliver 'smiles' and 'a difference'
The experience is 'nourishing'

Is Gordon really engaged?
Your community members matter!
Why does it matter?
Every member has their own priorities and trade-offs. It's important that you clearly communicate the goals of your project so that can determine the costs and benefits of their participation.

A new group in town is hosting an action planning meeting to deal with litter in the community. Gordon attends because he interested is helping out with clean-up. When he arrives he is asked to use stickers to mark problem litter areas on a big map. The problem is, he doesn't know where the litter is, he just wants to help clean it up. The group doesn't yet have a plan for how the will organize the clean up. How can Gordon feel like a valued member of the community?
Shannon attends a public open house to learn more about an industrial project proposed for her town, but she leaves disappointed. What could have been done to improve this?
The difference between engagement and traditional marketing is your ability and willingness to adapt

Adapt or Die!
Chloe is responsible for organizing recycling education across a large geographic area. She's organized several information sessions in the outlying communities, but she's not getting a very good turnout. What could she do to improve this?
If community members invest time or resources into a project, they will expect see some results
Recognize and make use of the contributions of individuals and partners
Provide regular updates on the progress of the project, even if things aren't going well. Expectations need to be reconciled with reality.
When a project experiences a success, invite community members to celebrate!
Follow through on our promised objectives
Succession Planning
Document and archive your project as much as possible to facilitate a transfer of knowledge.
If the need for a project continues, focus resources on its continuation.
Engaged communities are required for longevity. If your community loses interest, maybe it's time to end the project.
If the need for a project ends, provide the opportunity for evaluation and debrief. Prepare a summary report and share it broadly to provide closure.

Show community members the impact of their contributions
The Fundamentals
The Toolbox
Every community will require a different set up tools
Each community will need the following for success:

1. Informed participation

2. Connection to the cause

3. Connection to other members

4. Opportunities to explore

5. Opportunities to contribute

The Community Developer Toolbox
Informed participation
There are five questions that all community members should know the answer to:
What is our objective?
What steps do we need to take?
What time and resources are required?
What does success look like?
What is our progress?
A common understanding is fundamental
The E-Bulletin
Easily archived
Allows people to read at their own pace
Email marketing services provide better functionality
MailChimp, Constant Contact
Social media platforms help
Use your social media activity to assemble content

Privacy is paramount
Understand CASL
Open and click-through rates can be low
Not reaching people with limited internet access
time, tech capacity required
Often hidden in Gmail and other email services
Not commonly shared with others
Literacy barriers

The Printed Bulletin
More likely to be read
Commonly shared between community members
People like personalized mail
Great for distribution at offices, meetings, gatherings, display booths, etc

Can be expensive
Cumbersome to add people to the distribution list
Not easily archived
People move
Rural residents mostly use PO Boxes
makes it difficult to find an address
Literacy barriers

Social Media
Allows for feedback and discussion
Usually provides more frequent updates
Easy to share amongst members
User friendly
Highly visual
event management, photo albums etc

Crowded platforms
your message can get lost
Multiple platforms
JIT communications
difficult to catch up on missed posts
Not reaching people with limited internet access
time, tech capacity required
Voyeurs vs. participants

Steering Committees
Highly invested participants
Provides the most opportunity to engage
Fosters diversified leadership
Builds on existing personal brands
Provides a personal touch

Participation is limited by time and travel barriers
Breakdown likely to occur if committee members don't follow through on commitments
Members can have their own agenda

Information Sessions
Can allow for feedback and discussion
Learning can be oral, written and visual
great for all types of learners
Public and visible
great for recruiting more members
Fosters conversation with other members
Provides a personal touch

Participation is limited by time and travel barriers
Requires a lot of effort to organize
Can be expensive

Media Coverage
Reaches a large audience
Good press bring partners and members
Good integration with social media

No guarantee your story will be used
You don't control the message
You will need a contact person experienced with media enquiries

Media Advertising
Advertising can be very costly
Be sure you are using the right media for your target market
Rural community advantage: residents often get their news from a single source
Connect to the cause
In order for members to invest in their community, they need to see their values and identities reflected in the whole.

They will also need to know that their investment will result in a return (positive change)
Many different aspects of the community will speak to its members
Tours & Open Houses
Allows for feedback and discussion
Boots on the ground
Make it real
Public and visible
great for recruiting more members
Fosters conversation with other members
Provides a personal touch

Participation is limited by time and travel barriers
Requires a lot of effort to organize
Can be expensive
Can be disruptive to facilities, clients, etc

Share the history
Understanding the reason for your community's existence will foster greater commitment to your objectives.

Unfortunately, history has a way of getting lost so this step may require a lot of effort and reconnecting with members who have left the community
History provides a sense of shared identity
Celebrate successes!
Celebrating success helps the community develop a tangible understanding of what they've achieved:
Client profiles - put a face to name
Ribbon cutting - put boots on the ground
Timeline celebrations - mark your progress
Rewarding members - recognizing contributions
Celebration creates forward momentum
Connection to Community Members
Building relationships between members fosters sense of community.

New communities will have to focus resources on this strategy. Well-established communities may require less network building, but should take special care to support new members
Everyone has a place in the pack
Shared experiences create common identity
Bringing people together is a lot of fun, but also requires careful planning. Always be clear what the purpose of the gathering is, so that members can choose whether it will be of value to them or not:
Food - the universal community builder!
Works bees - further your progress and foster relationships at the same time
Planning sessions - create opportunity for members to influence the community
Tours and open houses
Team Building
Client/Partner connections
Volunteer profiles/recognition

The Website
Allows members to participate at their own pace
Often serves as a central information hub
Can perform many different functions
It's what the majority of people look to for answers
Great for archiving

Can be expensive
Requires skill to manage
Can become easily outdated
Literacy barriers
Not reaching people with limited internet access
time, tech capacity required
Technology...enough said

Allow space for exploration
Everyone has a different learning style and approach to their work and challenge. Time and place sensitive opportunities will limit participation.

Archive, disseminate and delegate to allow space for exploration!
Exploration fosters creativity
Provide opportunity to influence
Community engagement is all about adapting to new realities, new information, and new members:
Regular opportunities to evaluate and provide feedback
Use it or lose it!
Visioning sessions
Steering committees
Letter writing
Marches, rallies, etc
Votes and polls
Discussion forums
Each member of your community can be a powerful force for change
Use multiple information platforms.

Always use a mix of digital and analog.
Every community is different.

Seek out and explore community hubs.
Get personal.

Time is often best spent face-to-face.
Pick up the phone.

Conversation is immediate, direct, personal, and provides equal opportunity to participate.
Avoid being a 'parachute' expert.

Spend time in the community. Engage key point people to act as local champions.
Get real.

Be upfront about the limitations of your project. Demonstrate authenticity.
Avoid duplication.

Compliment rather than compete with coinciding communities.
Understand and embrace trade-offs.

You will face them everyday.
Get Smart.

Project management and business planning training have valuable principles to offer.
You are not an island. You are part of a community.

Grow together.
Full transcript