A recent project of mine was to incorporate community voice into a set of recommendations to the MN Department of Education. As it winds down, I am reflective on the process of community engagement to strengthen not only our recommendations, but this process overall.
My work has been driven by the importance of community engagement and why it matters. While it may be easier and faster to rely on experts and research to develop and push forward a new policy or plan, those directly affected and impacted rarely understand the rationale. For example, in my project, it was important to explain what the education services were to families who were skeptical they did not serve their children. I learned about the perception problem and the lack of communication between schools and families.
I have come to value the practice of “patient urgency”: the patience to present knowledge of the problem and the potential solutions, while maintaining urgency to keep the process moving. Community engagement, sometimes called stakeholder engagement, can easily drag on without consensus. But shared ownership creates a sense of empowerment and pride. Communities feel heard, their needs are addressed, and true compromise is reached.Read more