Almost every collective impact effort I have visited has struggled with community engagement at some level. During the past few years, I have learned a great deal from projects I’ve visited, while also drawing on my experience doing community building for more than two decades through Public Allies and The Asset-Based Community Development Institute.
I was invited by Results for America to work with Melody Barnes, Chair of the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions, to consider how community engagement can become a greater part of the movement around data-driven strategies and results. Our resulting essay, “Community Engagement Matters (Now More Than Ever)” was the most read and shared article of 2016 on the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Our basic argument was that data-driven strategies and community engagement strategies are not mutually exclusive. In order to achieve better results, many leaders in the public, philanthropic, and nonprofit sectors are employing data-driven strategies, including evidence-based programs and collective impact. Often such efforts are seen as in conflict with community engagement. In fact, community engagement, when done well, should support and enhance the ability to achieve data-driven results.
Community engagement is about ensuring that those most impacted by social challenges have a say in designing and implementing solutions. The participation of intended beneficiaries and their families, neighbors, and trusted leaders should be an integral part of data-driven processes to achieve better results. And a shift in power where community members own and help produce the result will lead to greater, more sustainable impact. The following toolkit is meant to guide leaders and groups through a step by step process of building community engagement strategies that will achieve better results for children, families, and communities.
I developed this toolkit to provide a step-by-step guide through many of the tools, lessons, and challenges I’ve worked with groups to overcome. I tested it with over a dozen initiatives before releasing it. I invite and welcome feedback, tools, and resources that can make this even better. I hope it is helpful in its current state.
Nothing about us without us!
P.S. My colleague Dan Duncan from the Asset-Based Community Development Institute and Clear Impact has created another great toolkit for folks who want to dig deeper specifically into ABCD, discovering and activating the often untapped assets of communities and community members. My toolkit touches on this work, and Dan’s is another great resource.
Access the Community Engagement Toolkit in the Forum Resource Library.