Thursday, March 31, 2011

Understanding the Engagement Toolkit

Today, @chachasikes called a meeting of the Pheattle (that's Philly and Seattle combined) team to try to get a clearer idea of one of the projects we're doing with the cities.  I thought it was helpful.  We ended up with a set of ideas that drive us, and a set of metrics that would lead us to feel that whatever we create is successful (see below).

We have been calling the project The Engagement Toolkit.  We knew that the point of it is to be a resource for civic leaders and potential civic leaders to get their initiatives going, but were still fuzzy on the details.  Energy throughout the meeting was dragging.  There was a sense that peoples passions weren't coming out into the ideas that they were expressing.  This was the reason for the meeting in the first place -- we were all having difficulty getting behind the Engagement Toolkit as an idea because we had never agreed as a group why we were working on it.  We could have just gone on and created anything, but (as Chach likes to say), that's not why we're in Code for America.  We're here to create things that we're passionate about; things that we think will address issues that are near to our hearts.  We want to express our love of humanity through our work, and if we're not doing that, then we're not realizing our reason for being here.

After much of the meeting had passed by with our uninspired input, we had an idea to each tell everyone what they were passionate about in regards to what the Engagement Toolkit could be, and what their metrics for success are.  Here are the (abbreviated) results:

What’s exciting?
  • It's a good time.  Community organizing is sexy now. Facebook is watered down. There’s not a hub for inspired people to share their successes -- to show off. Excited about putting together a bar that appeals to organizers' narcicism.
  • Schools in Philly suck, and there are certain groups of super-moms who are teaming up and saying they’ll be involved in their local school, which is horrible, and make it good. There are others who want to do that as well. If we were able to provide a mechanism for sharing those strategies, that would be awesome.
  • Education about and sharing of experience is exciting. There’s so much good that happens that it just makes sense that there should be an easy way for people to learn about what others do.
  • Creating civic leaders. Encourage and convince (or con) non-civic leaders to take action. Turning complainers into civic leaders.
  • Making it exceedingly easy to do something positive in your community.
  • There are cool things that people are doing to make their city a better place, but they’re really hard to find. There are weird ways that people help, and I would like it to be more easy for people to find what those ways are. If it was more transparent and people could see “recipes” for getting things done.
  • Would have loved to have a tool like this when doing community organizing so that I could know who it is that’s out there already organizing events, so that I could talk to them; ask to share organizing letters, contacts, etc.
  • Bringing knowledge from people who know how to get things done to people who don’t know how to get things done. Also, putting the spotlight on people who are doing the right thing.
  • Excited about imparting practices that good leaders have now onto new leaders.
Metrics of success
  • Seeing people getting involved/voluneering because of the ET
  • Seeing people exchanging organizing knowledge through the ET
  • Seeing people organizing who haven’t organized before
  • Seeing people taking action who would not otherwise have
  • Seeing people making an impact on real people in real places
  • Seeing people contributing their stories of successes through the ET back to the ET, demonstrating investment in the community
  • Seeing people getting up to speed with community organizing faster than those who came before them, which we may measure by surveying people when they register
  • Seeing companies wanting to provide plugins for their software to connect with the ET

1 comment:

  1. Hi
    Very, very interesting that you are looking at developing an engagement toolkit. I also like your solution to the uninspired start to the meeting - nothing like a bit of passion to engage people!

    We ( have developed a series of models for engagement (all open source) and I would love to chat about how we can contribute our experience and knowledge to your process. I also have an idea would like to put fw - of a way to digitalise the thinking process for strategic engagement design which will then impact on effectiveness of engagement delivery. We've been thinking, designing, working and training others in engagement for many years- i hope to have the opportunity to collaborate with you all at Code for America on this toolkit.

    Jonny Zander