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Building Consensus

It starts inside – do your board, staff and volunteers see the benefits of creating engagement experiences outside the framework of your traditional programming?  Do key outside constituent groups in your organization endorse this expanded role for your organization in the life of your community?  Organizations who are successful in community engagement have usually garnered the involvement and endorsement of the full breadth of the organization.

Who are your internal team groups?
Each organization is unique and depending upon the size and scope of your organization, the list of internal stakeholders could be small or large.

Examples of internal stakeholder groups:

  • Board members
  • Volunteers
  • Staff: Administration/artistic staff, production staff, customer service staff (box office, front of house, concessions, etc)
  • Donors
  • Core audience members such as season ticket holders or members

Making a chart that lists your external stakeholders and then briefly identifying the benefits they might receive by participating in community engagement, the barriers they might feel for taking on this activity and your expectations for how exactly they will participate in the community engagement process within your organization is one way to start. 

When you start to make your chart, you might begin by making assumptions about the perceived benefits and barriers, but it is important that you don’t stop there.  Invite one or two members of the internal stakeholder group to have a conversation with you.  Introduce the basic principles of community engagement and then encourage them to give you the answers concerning benefits and barriers.

What benefits might they derive from your organization’s commitment to community engagement?

The following are examples of benefits various internal stakeholder groups might see from community engagement, but the best way to determine this list of benefits is to sit down with one or two members of this stakeholder group and have a conversation.  For many, a key benefit will likely be their personal belief in the importance of inclusiveness for the arts – creating opportunity for everyone to experience the power of the arts. 

A board member might also see community engagement as a means to increase organizational visibility, increase our value to the community or find new funding sources.

A staff member might see community engagement as an opportunity to work on something different and to make new community connections.

Some of the concerns (barriers) internal stakeholders might feel include the amount of time it is going to take, the lack of knowledge in how to do it, the fear of working with people one doesn’t know and the cost of taking on these projects

It is important to determine and articulate expectations for participation from internal stakeholder groups and this will also vary widely, depending upon the internal group. Some likely expectations might be endorsing community engagement as ongoing initiatives within the organization, scanning the community to identify opportunities and issues, identifying potential partners or funders, actively working on community engagement initiatives or spreading the word by communicating externally about the organization's interest in community engagement.

Who are your external stakeholders and what other external groups  do you wish to consider?

It will be important to gain commitment and understanding from your external stakeholders.  Identify your key constituent groups, determine their concerns, assess their level of engagement and develop your plan.

  • Your municipal or regional government council members and paid leadership
  • Your government funders
  • Your foundation funders
  • Your local educators, parent teacher associations and school divisions
  • The local media
  • The local arts organizations (performing in your building)
  • The local arts organizations in your community.
  • The casual audience (people who attend your events on an infrequent basis)
  • Interested public (former board members, volunteers and committed audience members/donors who no longer actively participate in your organization’s life, but are quick to have an opinion)
  • Local businesses in your neighbourhood

Of course, you will probably have many more.

What might be their concerns and what level of engagement might they have with you in your new role?

One way to think about it is as a series of questions:

  • What do we think the issue is for this group with our undertaking community engagement activity?  (THE CHALLENGE)
  • How important is this group to our implementation of Community Engagement as part of our portfolio of ongoing activity?  (THE NEED TO MAKE THE CASE)
  • What is the argument we will make (WHAT IS THE CASE)
  • What tools will we use to communicate to this group? (HOW YOU MIGHT MAKE THE CASE)




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