At Fourth Economy, we never do the same project twice, but we do have certain practices and processes that we fall back on because they work well.
Even so, we are always seeking to achieve better, more creative results, and we know that it sometimes takes trying something totally new/different to get there. We want to challenge ourselves to see our practices from a new perspective, and continue to take a hard look at what does and does not work in our process. So, we’ve been putting our innovative energy to good use, and JAMMING.
No, it isn’t a ‘jam’ in the musical sense (even though that would satisfy my dreams of starting the Fourth Economy traveling band), but we have been gathering around a table to hear from each other’s experiences and discuss how we can improve.
Because we pride ourselves in our unshakable community focus and outward engagement practices, the first topic we Jammed about was Community Engagement.
Here are some of the questions we asked ourselves for our first Jam, and the answers we came up with:
Q: What does effective community engagement look like?
A: Effective community engagement is...
We know it’s important to hear from diverse faces and voices. Beyond that, we know we will have achieved our goals when everyone at the table has contributed something, rather than a few entities contributing everything.
No lip service here. It isn’t enough to just have the right people at the table. When they share their perspective, different opinions are weighted equally.
When true community engagement has been achieved, the connections established come from a place of authenticity, and those relationships are sustained even after the project is over.
Q: What questions should we ask ourselves to ensure inclusivity?
How might other people hear about this project?
Who is not at the table right now?
Who else should we be talking to?
Would I want to participate?
Q: What are three things we can practice to ensure better community engagement?
Empathy: Understand the realities of someone’s situation, and if they would or would not want to participate.
Resourcefulness: Don’t rely on the typical channels to spread or gather information. Talk to the unsuspecting participant.
Responsive Listening: Make sure that we ask for feedback every step of the way - “We heard you say ___. Is that accurate?”
What are lessons you’ve learned from successful (or unsuccessful) endeavors in community engagement?
Please reach out and share with us!