Read Paul Born's latest book:
Read Paul Born's latest book:
In community based research, I think we all want stakeholder engagement practices to be meaningful. As change leaders, we often ponder the approach to engaging stakeholders. One filter that could be used is Bolman and Deal’s (1999) four frame model. Using the political lens within this model ensures that within our community development practices, we are at least informing politicians of our interest in developing sustainable change strategies. Civic structure already carries a tremendous amount of power and accountability to its taxpayers but should everything be their responsibility to change? Should we rely on local government to control and manage all of the community decisions?
Weisbord (2012) believed that the role of a change agent is to help systems unfreeze, move, and refreeze (p. 221). If we rely on government to be the sole change agent it could likely strip accountability away from its citizens. Block (1999) believed that reliance on government to manage change can result in a detached and isolated population with “people in our communities whose gifts remain on the margin” (p. 2). Although citizens are important stakeholders in every community, I am at a partial loss as to the best ways to engage all of them. Block further commented that community fragmentation manifests itself by “low voter turnout, the struggle to sustain volunteerism, and the large portion of the population who remain disengaged” (p. 3). Choosing the ‘right’ constituents can be as difficult as choosing too many.
On one hand there is value in looking for an equal representation derived from multiple neighborhoods, political voices, or policy angles. I fear, however, that this differentiated approach would bring out a variety of ‘usual suspects’ who want to complain or engage in selfish interests. The challenge I believe is to locate an equal distribution based on the factors involved in the specific change effort. Beckhard (1987) suggested that involving a cross-section representation of constituents from a range of hierarchical levels would provide adequate multilevel representation for the change effort (p. 693).
Another strategy would be to use the social relationships approach that Armenakis, Harris, and Mossholder (1993) noted hinge on social networks and begin cataloging the individuals that come up as important ‘informants’ in a community. Dexter (1970) believed that informants, although biased among their own constituents, can help identify latent values and assumptions due to their role as surrogate observers or experts that may otherwise not be captured by the investigator (pp. 10-11). This approach surely would provide a broader lens in identifying key change agents in a community. Schuster and Weidman (2006) however believed that engagement needs a minimal structure that engages multiple parties while maintaining a low political profile (p. 49). In my local experience I believe the latter will prevail. In the effort to respond to gaps in the community, the instability of revolving political interests, and a growing need for collaboration, the nonprofit organization I am involved with will begin the engagement process with its closest community partners.
I am currently in the process of engaging a community nonprofit organization’s Board of Directors in the identification of an appropriate methodology to engage their current Society members in dialogue and participatory action research. Using a diversified approach there will be an overlap of engagement processes between our community members, strategic planning, and socially innovative planning that can involve the partners in participatory action research. The Board of Directors has adopted a philosophy of engagement that befits the nature of participatory research and has the mandate to aspire to implementing this approach within the system. Glesne (2011) believed that community based action research works well when stakeholders become agents of change in order to keep research cycles moving (p. 23). This approach is being seen as a desirable outcome for the organizational vision, mission, and values.
My skill is to work with community groups and as a consultant approach, invite, and convene stakeholders in dialogue. My passion is in engaging organizations in ways that treat all members of the system as equal participants in forming a non-traditional approach to community engagement. Through the methodologies of one-to-one interviews, Appreciative Inquiry, World Café’s, Open Space technology, and Transformative Scenario Planning we can enable our own role in creating change in our communities. When engaged in my role as a facilitator, I know I am successful when I am able to remain an observer and act as an action researcher. Lewin (1946) posited that “we need reconnaissance to show us whether we move in the right direction and with what speed we move” (p. 38). Hopefully the new patterns and themes that emerge from my inquiry with you can provide us all with insight that promotes the value of inclusive strategic planning for nonprofit organizations. Please feel free to connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Armenakis, A. A., Harris, S. G. & Mossholder, K. W (1993). Creating readiness for organizational change. In Burke, W., Lake, D. G., & Paine, J. (Eds.). (2009). Organization change: A comprehensive reader. (pp. 569-586). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Beckhard, R. & Harris, R. T. (1987). The change process: Why change? In Burke, W., Lake, D. G., & Paine, J. (Eds.). (2009). Organization change: A comprehensive reader. (pp. 687-698). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Block, P. (2009). Community: The structure of belonging. San Francisco, CA: Berett-Koehler Publishers.
Bolman, L.G. & Deal, T.E. (2003). Reframing Organizations. (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA : Jossey-Bass.
Dexter, L. A. (1970). Elite and specialized interviewing. Evanston, Il: Northwestern University Press.
Glesne, C. (2011). Becoming qualitative researchers: An introduction. (4th ed.). New York, NY: Longman.
Lewin, K. (1946), Action Research and Minority Problems. Journal of Social Issues, 2, 34–46. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.1946.tb02295.x
Schuster, M., & Weidman, S. (2006). Organizational change in union settings: Labor-management partnerships: The past and the future. HR. Human Resource Planning, 29(1), 45-51. Retrieved from http://www.hrps.org/
Weisbord, M. R. (2012). Productive workplaces: Dignity, meaning, and community in the 21st century. (3rd ed.). San Francisco, Ca: Jossey- Bass.