This didn’t make it into the paper on Engagement Organizing that we’re about to release, but I thought it was an important point on its own. Curious to hear your thoughts.
One thing is common to all of the engagement organizations we interviewed: authenticity. These are organizations that are so comfortable with their identity and able to explicitly connect their work of the moment to deeply-held core values that their supporters feel it and respond to it with higher levels of engagement than in other organizations. In a world where people are less trusting all the time, authenticity is a critical foundation of social change.
It’s interesting to see how widely the word “engagement” is now being used in the nonprofit tech sector. That’s cool. (I like to think that my colleagues at Groundwire have played a role in spreading this meme.)
But less cool is how often “engagement” seems to be used as a synonym for “marketing.” That’s kind of sad. Nothing against marketing; lord knows the nonprofit sector could stand to get better at it. But I’d like to see more conversation about how to better structure the substance of our work to be more engaging and participatory and how to develop better processes for that kind of engagement. Framing engagement as a marketing challenge reduces what could be transformational down to something more transactional.
We were chatting a bit today at Groundwire HQ, and it occurred to me that there is a fair amount of conceptual resonance between our notion of an “Engagement Pyramid” and badge/achievement systems such as those on Stack Overflow, Foursquare or your Playstation 3/Xbox 360.
Just a thought.
My colleague Steve Andersen is doing some neat work to create techniques for sending email series with Salesforce. This is a pretty great “low-tech” technique for building an engagement relationship, useful in organizing, service delivery and training contexts.