D’Andre Lampkin is a public servant and non-profit leader with a robust community service background. In the following article, D’Andre Lampkin of Lampkin Foundation discusses the many ways to foster community engagement to build deep interpersonal connections and even stronger communities.
Organizations like the Lampkin Foundation have visions for completely engaged, strong, resilient communities. Individuals within such entities find ways to support grassroots community projects to reinvigorate neighborhoods with the help of donor contributions.
And these nonprofits have banded together to divulge best practices for building stronger communities and fostering community engagement.
Pandemic Remnants Create Additional Barriers for Neighborhoods
D’Andre Lampkin of Lampkin Foundation explains that inclusive community engagement and outreach were challenging tasks before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the aftermath of the virus has erected additional barriers along the path.
Aside from the traditional concerns of priority conflict, apathy, and time constraints, the coronavirus pandemic has added access problems, mandated safety procedures, and discomfort with virtual settings.
However, D’Andre Lampkin reports that studies show that the world is becoming increasingly diverse, hiking the need to be deliberately inclusive within communities and outreach/engagement strategies. After all, various studies have concluded that inclusivity equals better outcomes, including creative ideas, robust support, deeper relationships, and stronger communication.
The Four Levels to Community Engagement
D’Andre Lampkin of Lampkin Foundation states there are four levels to community engagement — inform, consult, collaborate, and empower.
The latter three are all examples of heightened inclusivity. Reports show that most governments around the United States of America do a great job of informing their neighborhoods with inclusion in mind (e.g., printing materials in multiple languages).
D’Andre Lampkin explains that local agencies also tend to consult with their communities by conducting monthly meetings or running resident surveys.
But reliance on government resources and local agencies they aren’t the complete answer to the problem.
If inclusive community engagement and building better neighborhoods are truly the goal, entities must focus on collaboration and empowerment of individuals. Experts say that often means altering approaches or sharing decision-making tasks.
Facilitation Drives Inclusive Community Engagement
Every leader or manager has tools to fuel community engagement, and facilitative techniques might be the most meaningful to foster inclusivity.
D’Andre Lampkin says that state facilitators are active listeners, guides, motivators, cheerleaders, and bridge builders. They take a very different approach to traditional community engagement. But it’s unarguably the more effective method.
Instead of presenting the community with what could happen, facilitators give residents ample opportunities to tell them what they want. Likewise, they will not come up with a conclusion themselves; they’ll guide participants to come to a consensus-based decision.
Creating Inclusive Processes for Building Unbreakable Communities
Inclusivity is undoubtedly the buzzword of the moment. But best practices must be followed when crafting inclusive community engagement processes to ensure it’s enacted as flawlessly as possible.
D’Andre Lampkin of Lampkin Foundation says that it’s helpful to work in stages as follows:
- First, set the outcome of the engagement. Some efforts wish to inform neighborhoods about important events, while others want to encourage participation and feedback.
2. Know the demographics. Facilitators need to understand who resides within the community, where they live, and the languages they speak. Identifying groups that don’t typically engage with communities proves essential for guaranteeing all-around inclusivity.
3. Evaluate the community’s resources. In other words, people need communication channels to participate and engage with the effort. This means physical meeting locations (e.g., businesses, service organizations, libraries, community spaces, etc.), virtual communication methods, and opportunities (e.g., sports activities, events, etc.).
4. Know the barriers to participation. For example, transportation can be a crucial obstacle. Once barriers are identified, solutions need to be crafted to spur participation.
5. Prepare tools and techniques. Presentations, sticky notes, task forces, on-site visits, social media posts, radio, and more can be used during engagement efforts.
6. Produce a process for the engagement and outreach. For best results, experts recommend writing the process down to make certain that everybody knows what to do and when to do it.
7. Draft the outreach and engagement plan for the audience. Professionals suggest graphic mockups of messaging to aid the community’s understanding.
Upon creating the process, facilitation of engagement can occur. Leaders must remember that this means 80% listening and 20% presenting while asking fantastic questions.
D’Andre Lampkin explains that through intentional inclusivity, community meetings can become opportunities to learn, grow, and develop at individual and group levels. It’s the ticket to building stronger neighborhood bonds, abolishing stereotypes, and ensuring all residents have equal chances to let their voices be heard.
Community engagement doesn’t exist without facilitation. And facilitation doesn’t exist without intentional inclusivity.