The engagement equation

It’s interesting when words or phrases become buzz words in our everyday language. One that you may have heard lately is the word ‘engagement'. You may have heard of it in terms of ‘volunteer engagement’ or ‘community engagement'. Let’s look at this interesting word and these two specific applications.

Overall, engagement describes a process in which meaningful participation, collaboration, and dialogue are involved. This definition does have broad application but it boils down to the emotional and functional commitment of individuals or groups of individuals to a cause that they believe in.

Community engagement deals with the practice of moving communities towards change; it allows communities to learn about and contribute and shape the decisions that affect their lives. Community engagement should therefore lead to an improved and organized community by providing a voice for all citizens including vulnerable members of our community. Central to the success of the concept of engagement is a common ideal or vision. The vision needs to be rooted in local values, grounded in community experience, and shaped by as many citizens as possible. Research suggests that when people have opportunities to contribute to the decisions that affect their lives, they are more likely to support these decisions over the long-term.

Volunteer engagement is a fundamental cornerstone of the voluntary sector. Volunteer engagement is a strategy that builds organizational capacity through employee and volunteer collaboration. Capacity is about abundance – having more resources to reach more people. For volunteers to be truly engaged, an organization needs to create opportunities for volunteers to meaningfully contribute. Volunteer engagement builds the capacity of the non-profit organization beyond what staff alone can accomplish. You would almost certainly ever hear a non-profit admit to having too many people involved in their cause because it’s the synergy of engagement of individuals that leads to increase in awareness and ultimately support.

So what’s common to both community engagement and volunteer engagement? In a word – collaboration. So whether you’re a volunteer, staff member or citizen - find your place, get involved, collaborate. When we work together amazing things can happen.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

The mission of United Way is to improve lives and build community by engaging individuals and mobilizing collective action.

We call this our Community Impact Mission. Community impact is about achieving meaningful, long-term improvements to the quality of life in Canadian communities, by addressing not just the symptoms of problems but also getting at the root causes. It’s about making fundamental changes to community conditions.

United Way is achieving this mission by moving people from poverty to possibility, promoting healthy people and strong communities, and supporting all that kids can be.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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