Given today’s world of competing demands, commuting, and over-scheduling, it’s not surprising that the Vancouver Foundation recently published a report called “Connect & Engage: A Survey of Metro Vancouver” that found residents find it difficult to be actively engaged in their community.
As non-profit leaders, this is something that you are constantly struggling with as you seek to find appropriate board members; volunteers to support your programs and services; and assistance in raising the funds that you need to successfully design, market, and implement responsive programs and services.
What you might not realize though, is that approximately three-quarters of local residents are still actively engaged in some way in their community. For the local non-profit community, this is great news!
As a community developer and facilitator of community engagement projects, one of the most surprising discoveries my clients make is that people WANT to be asked to participate and to provide ideas and opinions. They want to help make their community a better place and the non-profits who do such great work, succeed.
At a recent community conversation that I hosted for a client, several of the non-profit management team members attended to listen to the conversation. I’m not sure what they expected when they came; however, I do know it wasn’t what they witnessed that day.
The conversations café was designed to ask participants what they considered important as the non-profit moved into the future. The conversation was fluid, with one idea building on another. Excitement built as participants shared ideas and expertise, and provided insight on what they needed / wanted more
of in relation to the organization’s mandate, services, and programs. The conversation validated the importance of the ideas, expertise, and perspectives each participant shared.
With time running out, and no slow down in conversation, I asked who would like to continue to co-create a shared future for the organization; everyone at the table responded with a resounding “YES.”
And that was the surprise.The non-profit managers hadn’t expected that community members would want to engage in the conversation at any level – let alone be engaged in the conversation on an ongoing basis.
The beginnings of a strong symbiotic relationship took root during that conversation. With careful stewardship and nurturing, these relationships will flourish and deepen – enabling the organization to deepen and expand how it engages with these individuals.
Often, simply ASKING for participation and valuing the input of those who show up to co-create with you, can move a community member from someone with an interest in your organization to someone who advocates for and invests their time, energy, and expertise in your organization. Does it get any better?
This then begs the question: When was the last time you invited your community to co-create something with your team?What are you currently working on that might benefit from some outside ideas and perspectives?
“Connect and Engage: A Survey of Metro Vancouver” Vancouver Foundation. 2017. <https://www.vancouverfoundation.ca/connectandengage/key-findings> Accessed: April 19, 2018.