ENGAGEMENT: A Quick How-to Guide

I was at a dinner a few nights ago to celebrate the Jewish New Year when a colleague started telling me about her work challenges. She has recently become the point person in a health network that will bring together 400 people around the common cause of fighting a terrible disease. She was lamenting the line item in her budget: “Engagement”… “What does this even mean?” she asked. She was at a loss.

Engagement is a word thrown around by innumerable bodies these days. Simon Fraser University is “the Engaged University”, countless organizations have “Community Engagement” strategies and plans, and even individuals can be targeted for engagement in their learning, voting, citizenship, employment and parenting, etc.

Engagement can be defined differently for different organizations and situations – there is no one definition. It can be thought of as absorption of focus or concentration, relating or making meaningful connection. It could be about communication and investment of time and energy – taking action, for example.

SO, when an organization has “Engagement” as a line in their budget, what are the next steps?
I have outlined some options for anyone grappling with this question.

Define what Engagement means for your organization. Is it about…

  • Understanding an issue more deeply?
  • Building relationships within your network?
  • Creating a shared vision or plan?
  • Hearing from your constituents?
  • Creating a community of practice among peers?
  • Discovering new tools, methods or approaches in your work?
  • Gathering feedback or input?

Regardless of how you define it, there is always an element of trust required for healthy engagement. The people who are being invited to engage have to be able to trust the host or sponsor on some level. Trust may need to be restored prior to an engagement initiative if there was a wounding event or dynamic in the past.

Choose your Engagement Goals:

  • Why/how do you want your group or organization to become engaged?
  • What will the world look like if your people are engaged?
  • What are the benefits to your people and to the mission of your organization if people do become engaged?
  • What is the risk if your people are not engaged?

Consider your Methods of Engagement:

  • In-person Meetings, Retreats and Gatherings: Face to face is the most engaging human dynamic. To reach your engagement goals, an expert in facilitation for engagement can guarantee a quality design that realizes your priorities. “Regular” meetings won’t cut it! Anyone who has sat through a day of presentations at a conference knows this. A special approach is required to create captivating meetings.
  • Small group meetings: Sometimes large gatherings are not possible. When that’s the case, get together with relevant team members to have quality conversations about the top priorities you are facing. Engaged meetings have all members participating, actively contributing and involved. You can work with graphic recorders or templates, experienced facilitators or creative community members to make it memorable and meaningful.
  • Interviews: When even small meetings are not possible, you can conduct interviews either in person or by Skype/phone. Reach out and connect with team members to show them their ideas and input matters. Engage them in the conversations that will affect the future of the organization. Stina uses the Appreciative Inquiry Approach. Download this pdf on Asking Powerful Questions.
  • Surveys: This can be a very helpful step in an engagement process, but is less effective when it’s done as a stand-alone strategy for engagement. Include questions that are open and not leading, giving each respondent an opportunity to share authentically and anonymously. These findings can be brought into any of the other methods outlined above, to help create shared awareness.

Evaluate your Engagement:

Don’t forget to put the metrics in place to measure your Engagement initiatives! There should be a return on your investment. This could look like increases in quantity and quality of strategic partnerships, better employee retention, improved performance in meetings and team dynamics or even a transformation in the workplace or organizational culture. Whatever the case, keep the communication going after the initial engagement “push” – because true engagement is about relationships. And those don’t end!

Hire an Engagement professional:

There are a small but passionate number of facilitators and consultants in the Metro Vancouver area who are dedicated to creating the settings for engagement to thrive. Qualified professionals should have proven experience at creating successful outcomes for their clients.

For more information on how Stina could serve your engagement needs (in Metro Vancouver or beyond), please contact her directly.
Call 604-612-8563, email stina at stinabrown.com or fill out the form below.

WHO Works with Stina?

  • Executive Directors, Board Chairs, managers, or heads of companies who are responsible to lead your teams to a new level of engagement, relevance and success.
  • Virtual Teams, Networks, Associations, “Learning Communities”, and groups of colleagues
  • Consulting professionals, facilitators, entrepreneurs and educators, committed to taking your vision, your meetings or your own effectiveness to the “next level”
  • Designer-facilitators or strategic, management or organizational development consultants looking for a dynamic and energized partner to help execute a well-designed, visually memorable, highly relational meeting or event – with or without Graphic Recording.

Quick Case Studies of Stina’s Design and Visual Facilitation Work with an Engagement Focus:

  • A Conversation on Climate Justice in BC: In late 2014, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives asked Stina to design a series of four full-day meetings over the course of two months as an engagement aspect of their Climate Justice Project (CJP), led by Marc Lee, Senior Economist. The CJP “asks how we can tackle global warming with fairness and equality. Our challenge is to build a zero carbon society that also enhances our quality of life.” This series of “deliberative dialog sessions,” which took place in the Metro Vancouver area, was intended to advance the outreach work of the CJP and deepen understanding of effective engagement processes. It also held the potential for expanded activities across BC and Canada to spur climate action. Stina hired Sam Bradd for complimentary Graphic Recording services. For a full description of the facilitated sessions, you can download Stina’s recap here. To see other best-practices examples of “visual facilitation” in action, you can purchase or download the just published anthology Drawn Together Through Visual Practice.
A Conversation on Climate Justice
A Conversation on Climate Justice
  • David Suzuki Foundation (DSF) – Sustainable Diversity Network Launch, Fall 2015. The Purpose of the event was to share DSF’s knowledge with their partners and allies, and empower them to integrate the findings of the Multicultural Report in their own public engagement work. To consolidate existing partnerships and form new relationships with ENGOs and new Canadians, strengthening the engagement of diverse communities in the green movement.
Sustainable Diversity Network Launch
DSF Sustainable Diversity Network Launch
  • Healthy Minds | Healthy Campuses Summit, March 11-12th 2016 in Vancouver. Stina provided live Graphic Recording Services for 2 Days of summit activities. This is visual and participant engagement which added a dimension of deepening the learning and memory of the people present. The added benefit of bringing this form of engagement into a meeting is offering people a visual record to share when the day is done, continuing the positive momentum and possibilities begun at an already successful event. Scroll to the bottom of this page to see images.
  • Abbotsford Community Services, Stina designed and facilitated a focused, fun and productive “Team Day” for Staff of Abbotsford Community Services, Multicultural and Immigrant Integration Services Division.
Abbotsford Community Services
Abbotsford Community Services

To read what Stina’s clients have experienced, working with her, please visit Stina’s clients page.

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