Community engagement brings together opposing sides for a meaningful discussion that generates a positive outcome, or at least ends with folks being heard. Make no mistake, conflict is part of the deal.

Everyone will not agree, not at the beginning or the end. Though if your community engagement begins with a strategy, more people than not will roughly see eye to eye as the process moves along and that can help foster productive discussions.

The world over, people generally want the same things. Safety. Security. Happiness. A good life. Fun times with family and friends. A good education for their children. These basic tenants are where we find the start of the conversation.

In the public arena, discourse takes root when those values are in conflict with what’s possible within the confines of public budgets, fiduciary responsibilities and diverse communities.

It’s best to look at community engagement through the lens of healthy debate and that will ultimately mean good people of good will can disagree. Knowing your community gives you a great advantage in anticipating objections and concerns.

The first rule of community engagement: engage. Start the dialog with community advisory committees, send out mailers and host public meetings, invite the folks with interest in your issues who are not particularly enchanted with your organization. Do not run to your cheerleaders; this will cause resistance.

Folks made of questions will bring the fresh eyes to your issues and help uncover a new way to see your message to the larger audiences. When these folks warm to you and begin to understand your challenges, then you’ll define the obstacles to clear communication with the community.

Be it a ballot measure or some public project that gets you in front of your community, it’s important to not retreat once the hard work, like a vote, is done. Stay engaged with your stakeholders and keep your pulse on the talk about town.

It will save you time in the long run and produce a much more harmonious relationship with the community you serve.

Is your government entity about to begin a community engagement campaign? Feel free to contact us to discuss your next steps for success. Contact Galvanized Strategies Founder Erica Holloway at erica@galvanizedstrategies.com.

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