C Fisher, “Community Engagement Beyond the Advisory Board: How to Do It and How to Measure It”, Massachusetts Nonprofit Network annual conference 2019 (oral presentation/facilitated workshop)
It is increasingly recognized that community engagement is a prerequisite for many nonprofit activities, especially advocacy and public policy work, and that a lack of community engagement may cause project failure. However, many nonprofits struggle to engage community members in a realistic, cost-effective way. The model of the Community Advisory Board or Committee, used by many organizations doing advocacy and public policy work, is frequently an insufficient means of securing community engagement — participants often remain at a superficial level of engagement and channels for input into decision-making remain limited.
Further, the hard work of building community engagement is largely invisible and underappreciated. This includes the crucial but “soft” skills involved in relationship-building, alliance formation, mentoring, and fostering community members’ leadership skills. Nonprofits may struggle to quantify their work and gains in this realm.
This workshop will provide the opportunity for non-profit personnel to reflect about their own practices and brainstorm opportunities for diving deeper into this work. The following questions will be explored: what do we really mean when we say “community engagement”? What are promising practices to promote deep, genuine engagement of the community in our projects? How can nonprofits measure and describe our progress in this realm?