“How do I get my boss/manager/elected member to get this engagement thing?”
I would love to get paid for every time I have heard this!
There can be a world of difference between an engagement practitioner’s passion for engagement and an organisation’s willingness (and capability) to do anything with that passion. Indeed, some engagement practitioners are so passionate about their work that they want their organisation to run well before it can walk. The more charismatic engagement practitioners score some quick wins, only to find the multi-headed hydra of change resistance rises from the depth of the organisational culture to tear down those hard-fought-for wins.
Based on our experience working with organisations to take the steps needed to ‘embed’ engagement there are few key learnings that may be worth considering. The first is that something that may seem self-evident but it is amazing how often people forget that making engagement normal within organisations is about engaging people within the organisation. I starts with turning all of those skills and passions for engaging communities and stakeholders outside the organisation and bringing them into the organisation.
For us that process always starts with the following four questions:
(1)What does engagement need to achieve to be of value to the organisation?
Engagement is predicated on the need for the process to be meaningful for the community and stakeholders and while this should never change, the best way to avoid tokenistic engagement and to strengthen the organisation’s desire to engage, is to ensure the outcomes and processes are meaningful for the organisation.
(2)What does quality engagement look like from the organisation’s point of view?
This question flows on from the first and asks the organisation to get more specific about what quality engagement looks like. One issue with engagement is when decision makers dismiss the engagement outcomes by trying to invalidate the process as a whole. More often than not, it is because there is not a clear and agreed measure of quality.
(3)What does quality engagement look like from the community/stakeholder point of view?
Engagement is not one way and the quality lens, likewise, needs to look out as much as it looks in. There is nothing like asking the organisation to put itself in the shoes of the community to deepen the understanding of how they might engage.
(4)What is the organisation’s current engagement mindset and what does it need to be?
You can’t define the change you want, without defining the change you want! Embedding engagement is no different and there is no one size fits all; each organisation will be at different stages and have different drivers and goals. While there are some still having the debate about the need for engagement, there are certainly many more that have already recognised its value and benefit.
Organisations first ask ‘why’, then they ask ‘how’ and then some even ask, ‘how else’.
Over our time working with embedding engagement , we have discovered four main approaches that organisations take to engagement and that having a conversation internally about the kind of approach you currently take and the one that you want to take/need to take is a critical first step when wanting to make engagement normal.
As a way to support you to make engagement normal in your neck of the woods, this dial can be downloaded here.