Engagement

Reaching out the beneficiaries, mapping competencies, co-defining objectives, managing expectations.

The second module focuses on:

Engagement is like the soil needed at the start of any inclusive and participatory process, and it can happen in different ways. This module helps people who want to become facilitators by giving them practical tools and exercises to engage communities, balance work, and meet everyone's needs. To make sure we create a process that really works for the community, we need to get to know the group or community well, design care strategies and not make assumptions without data. By involving all members and making sure they feel part of the process, we can keep everyone motivated. That's why the engagement module emphasises the importance of understanding and addressing the community's needs, showing empathy, and listening actively to make the process truly meaningful.

Here there are some guidelines towards an attitude that can help creating engaging processes:

Never assume. Ask. Map. Get data. Reverse ideas. Ask again. Be humble. Then try to make a conclusion.

Go beyond empathy. Try to imagine what it is to be that person. Really.

Try to get diversity of voices in order to comprehend better social dynamics, aspirations and needs on a community scale.

Skills and competences

Neighbourhood local facilitation and mediation; negotiation; community engagement and participative techniques and tools; understanding of local procedures; trust-based relations-maker; active listening; pedagogies of care;

Key Questions

Step 1.
Identifying common interests, needs and concerns

First, let's explore the essential process of identifying the interests, needs, and concerns of the community, even those that may be less visible. By gaining an understanding of their perspectives, aspirations, and challenges, we can establish an inclusive environment that naturally stimulates engagement. Through interactive discussions and practical exercises, participants will acquire insights on effectively reaching out to stakeholders and actively involving them.

Achieving a good level of engagement to carry out a community project depends to a large extent on our ability and care in combining different agents, contents, roles and resources to undertake a given challenge. This can be summarised in a few key ideas that can accompany us throughout the process of building the mutual recognition among agents and generation of a climate of necessary trust for engagement:

This first step is the moment to get to know each other and 'like' each other. Expose needs and expectations. Analyse what is in excess or what may be missing. See if there is a sufficient level of recognition and reciprocity and if the conditions are really in the right place to move forward with a common map committing ourselves into a project in the medium-long term. It is a process of individual and collective reflection and negotiation. It is a matter to find the coincidences and contradictions and if it is possible to reach agreements or not (the agreements may be revised throughout the process depending on the changes of the group itself or its context)

Tool:
The moving empathy map

The empathy map comes after you have collected interviews and ideas from being out on the field in real conversations and have encountered the reality in a variety of ways: through observing, asking and researching. The real experience gives you and your team the opportunity to co-feel, to put yourself in the shoes of the other and this is exactly what the Empathy map explores.

You could do it as a written exercise for the team, but also you could do it with bigger groups by creating “islands” from the different spheres that are described in the graph and physically divide the group to discuss and extract insights.

Some of the questions that this map addresses are:

Exercise:
Exploring Relationships with Groups and Communities (w/ Empathy map)

After filling the Moving Empathy Map, you can pursue a deeper understanding of the project's relationships with groups and communities, challenge assumptions, and explore reasons for engagement from both sides. The exercise can be adapted and expanded based on the specific context and objectives of your team or project.

*Note: This exercise is meant to be executed by the local social organisation members in order to define a better engagement plan for a project, but we are providing another exercise that can be done with the members of the community in which the organisation is working.

Instructions:

  1. Divide the team into small groups or pairs.
  2. Provide each group with a sheet of paper linked to the Moving Empathy Map or a whiteboard to write down their responses.
  3. Set a time limit for discussion and response writing (e.g., 10 minutes per question).
  4. Instruct the groups to discuss and answer the following questions based on their understanding of the project or initiative:

Question 1: Groups and Communities

Question 2: Beyond Assumptions

Question 3: Challenging Perspectives

After the allotted time, reconvene as a whole group and allow each team to share their responses. Encourage open discussion and reflection on the different perspectives presented.

Facilitate a group discussion to explore commonalities, differences, and potential strategies for engagement based on the insights gained from the exercise.

Exercise:
The Open Poker

The following game can be found in the KOOPtel Toolkit, and has been developed by Colaborabora (in spanish).

*Note: The following game can be played among the members of a social organisation and with the members of a community, so you can see which are the real needs and values of the core group of participants.

This is a game of individual reflection, group approach and collective negotiation. An opportunity to question ourselves about what we are looking for with this process beyond cooperation.

The objectives are: To know the desires, needs, motivations, expectations (why) of each of the agents involved and draw up a common map, looking for points of coincidence, and/or contradictions and incompatibilities.

We will need:

How to play:

  1. Each participant has 4 generic cards and 1 joker for the game. The first part consists of each one individually filling in their letters following the following scheme:
    • Diamonds: What moves you to cooperate (desires-motivations).
    • Clovers: What do you need to achieve (needs).
    • Hearts: What would you like to achieve (expectations).
    • Spades: What you would like to avoid (fears).
    • Joker: It is kept blank to be used in the final negotiation phase, being able to add new questions that complement the aspects present in the game.
  2. Then there is an individual presentation for sharing (each person presents a letter and they alternate). The cards are moving, getting closer or further away, creating groups, to look for relationships and point out agreements and disagreements. Wildcards can be entered during the trading process.
  3. This game can be played once or repeated several times (independently or by adding layers).
  4. It ends by collectively analysing the result of the game.

Observations:

Step 2:
Embracing our knowledge

After having identified the common needs, the engagement from participants will rely on how effectively the diverse skills of each community member are united.

A participatory project with strong engagement depends on a combination in which each element has something to contribute, contributing to a greater or lesser extent, but in a specific and decisive way, without any of them being subordinated or overlapping the others. It is a matter of specifying the resources, skills and competences that each participant could bring into play and those that they expect others to contribute. This means that the self-recognition of the aptitudes of each participant leads to individual empowerment that helps confirm their identity and value within a community, participatory process. By encouraging the community to value their shared knowledge and skills, we create a strong base for engagement.

Quite often, in participatory processes, there are those who put in extra effort that often goes unnoticed. This can lead to feeling exhausted or cause conflicts between colleagues. To prevent this, it's important to highlight everyone's skills and recognize the important work each person does. We should take some time to appreciate the work and abilities of others, so we can offer help to those who need it in different areas. This will make people feel more involved in the group activities. It's like an exercise of care. It creates a friendly environment where people can acknowledge their own talents and also find areas where they need support. By considering both our strengths and weaknesses, we will build better connections and develop ways to help each other. As a result, the engagement becomes a natural and organic outcome of this enriching space, where individuals feel valued, supported, and motivated to contribute their unique perspectives and talents.

In creating this exercise of care we are also providing some tips on the step 4 of this module, by celebrating the process and addressing the feeling of being valuable as individuals and as a community in a project!

During our engagement facilitation we are going to provide tools and techniques that serve to identify these individual aptitudes and can be analysed for the collective good. Not from a utilitarian position, but based on the emotions of each one of the participants, who decide where to put their strength and their aptitudes for the common and how they want to feel during the process.

Tool:
See No Evil, Hear No Evil,

The following tool can be found in the KOOPtel Toolkit, and has been developed by Colaborabora (in spanish)

Who doesn't remember Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder playing a deaf and blind man in the movie "See No Evil, Hear No Evil," having to team up to get off a false murder charge and catch the real criminals?

Well, that situation has a lot to do with how we find ourselves before many communitary processes to which we find ourselves summoned. Different agents with different interests, languages, activity environment or professional profiles, who meet and have to get to know each other, in order to establish the conditions that favour collaboration.

See No Evil, Hear No Evil is a little game to get to know each other better, to have some formal and informal information about our interlocutors, to see what we can contribute to each other, to try to relate and collaborate so that they don't lead to those (mis)encounters in which so many times we scream without listening to each other, we look at each other without actually seeing each other.

Observations:

We will need:

An A5 card folded in half. On each side, above we leave a horizontal space for the name and below, three vertical spaces to point out three characteristics. We will use one side to talk about the person and the other about the organization they represent.

How to play:

  1. It is about taking time to get to know the other better, so that later you can introduce them to the others (you introduce the person with whom they have spoken and they introduce you to you). This reinforces listening, paying attention to the other, since the responsibility is taken to speak for her, to present her to the rest of the group.
  2. The conversation revolves around three questions (these questions can be changed and adapted to each situation, (depending on the objectives, context...):
    • Is there something that characterises you?
    • Something you do very well?
    • Anything you need help with?
  3. It is important to attend to two levels when presenting: the person at an individual level (from his role in the organisation) and the organisation of which he is a part, which he represents in this process. If one of the people does not represent any organisation, but participates in a cooperation process individually, the questions could be approached, for example, from a more personal and professional point of view.

This game is developed by Colaborabora in their toolkit #KOOPtel, a toolkit with guides, resources and methodologies for cooperation (in spanish). Available here: https://www.colaborabora.org/category/bora-acciones/kooptel/

Exercise:
Identify Social Values,

*Note: The following game can be played among the members of a social organisation and with the members of a community, so you can identify the aspects that have been less and more valuable in the community.

There are some capacities that have a recognised social value. At the same time, many others are crucial for the sustainability of life but are not considered socially valuable. Many organisations find it difficult to provide a range different from the one established by the neoliberal system which values leadership, complete availability, economic resources, etc. This game will help your organisation to recognise everything required to produce a project, a campaign, etc. and give value to other tasks, capacities, knowledges, ideas, etc.

Observations:

Step 1. Let’s picture your organisation as a house with foundations, two floors and a roof. The foundations provide the scenario for the house to be built: internal relations and friendships, tasks to keep the organisation running, being responsible for your colleague’s welfare, etc. The first floor has the material resources to guarantee that the organisation can achieve its goals. The second floor is where knowledge and capabilities are kept, both individual and collective. The roof is where the goals of the organisation are.

Step 2. Start with the roof. Have a collective conversation about the general goals of your organisation. Pick three major goals and write them on the top of the house.

Step 3. When the goals are done, ask yourself, individually, these two questions in relation to the different parts of the house:

Pick a different colour for each of these questions.

Step 4. Share your answers with the rest of the group and stick your answers in the different parts of the house. Analyse the results according to what your colleagues think is socially valued within your organisation, what is not, and what is something most people are willing to learn. A lack in the foundations of your house will make your aims more fragile in the long term.

Step 3:
Sharing workload, preventing burnout.

Maintaining a fair balance throughout the process is crucial for meaningful engagement. By ensuring equal opportunities for participation and representation, we create an inclusive environment where all voices are heard and valued. This fosters trust, transparency, and respect, preventing the marginalisation or exclusion of individuals or groups. By promoting a sense of teamwork, individuals work together towards shared goals and assist each other. This can be achieved through joint activities, forming partnerships, and distributing workload.

Creating an environment where informal support is encouraged through open communication channels strengthens relationships and prevents discomfort. Even in our organisations, our commitment with our work can be unstable because of our everyday lives, so promoting a culture of interconnection and very positively recognizing their own mutual support strategies and adapt them to your engaging process, can help to reach the purposes of the facilitation, creating a network of interconnected individuals who are invested in each other's success. When members of a community feel genuinely considered, they are more likely to engage and invest actively.

Facilitators play a crucial role in setting the tone, guiding collaboration, and ensuring fair task allocation. By setting clear expectations, facilitators promote shared understanding and guide participants towards the process goals. They actively encourage balanced participation, managing group dynamics to address conflicts or discomfort. Analyzing the emotions of everyone involved in a process can help to prevent burnout, workload imbalance and therefore, is an essential key to the progress of any facilitation process.

Tool:
Care Questionnaire,

https://youngfeministfund.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Cuestionario-INGLE%CC%81S-WEB.pdf

Observations:

This questionnaire developed by Frida Fund is aimed to help trigger conversations related to care in the individual, organisational and funder level.

A checklist with simple questions that help you to identify how you are dealing with your work-life balance on the individual level, but also how it works when it is related to how organisations are managed, and how funders work with grantees. Go through the list and give answers to the questions, after that, share it with the rest of the members in your organisations or community to have a common understanding about how we collectively deal with care and how it can be improved.

Exercise:
Rotating Roles

Social organisations are usually structured in a horizontal way, but this does not mean that there aren’t power relations forming the way they are, in fact horizontality often hides them under the lack of a hierarchical structure.

Observations:

Step 1. Plan a meeting for everyone in your organisation.

Step 2. Work collectively on a list of the different daily tasks performed to keep the structure of the organisation running, paying special attention to those which do not usually receive any reward. Remember to include both tasks that are considered productive (such as taking notes in the meetings) and reproductive (such as watering the plants). When you have your list, add the names of those who usually do them.

Step 3. Ask yourself which tasks can be done by other members of the organisation and which can’t. Try to explain why this happens in every case.

Step 4. Propose a plan to rotate roles for the execution of these tasks in a concrete period of time, write them down in a visible way in the space you share, and keep the wheel going. Having someone else in charge of a task is a peer-to-peer learning mechanism that can help to redistribute power in an organisation.

Exercise:
Equalizer

The following game can be found in the KOOPtel Toolkit, and has been developed by Colaborabora (in spanish)

This game will help us to equalize, to modulate and to find the frequency in which we can work in harmony!

Observations:

We will need: Equaliser tabs + pieces to be able to equalise.

In any cooperation process there are a series of intangible and invisible aspects, linked to values, ethical principles, one's own culture, the determining factors (preferences and red lines) that each of the agents involved brings with them.

It is difficult to work on these issues, since they have to do with personal and/or social foundations or principles that are often taken for granted or overlooked. Issues that are not easily objectifiable, that are uncomfortable to explain or that are difficult to ponder. However, it is important to work on them, because they can affect the entire process and end up being decisive for the cooperation process.

The objectives are to see if we are more similar than we think or more different than we think, to be able to undertake a common project; speak as clearly as possible about intangible aspects, trying to objectify them, to identify points of agreement and disagreement and see if there are spaces for negotiation and convergence.

How to play:

  1. Each participant chooses one or more issues related to these intangible aspects, which they want to be taken into account or be present in the cooperation process.
  2. Binomials are identified around each of the aspects (e.g. open/closed) and whoever has proposed each of them places the equaliser in principle.
  3. From there you can move the equalisers, talk about them trying to reach a common position or make explicit disagreements.

Step 4:
Celebrating the process!

In order to sustain a participatory process in the medium to long term it is very important to dedicate time and resources to keep the flame of enthusiasm alive and to address issues that can break trust, because if trust is broken, the process will be broken as well.

For the sustainability of a community process, a collective reward always helps, a gift to offer to intermediaries, materialising the successes of the project that is being carried out. It is very important to make visible and collectively value what has been learned and to highlight the group's milestones. Celebrating the progress, however small it may seem, we must honour and celebrate the experience lived along with the road travelled and that we will continue to travel together. These spaces are what shape and strengthen the relationships in the group and make us continue rowing and putting resources, time and effort into the common pot.

Often the pressure to obtain definitive results, in the format required by funders or institutions, or even our own self-demand or excessive expectations lead us to forget the crucial importance of valuing the process itself before the result, scheduling, organising and facilitating spaces for the celebration of the journey underway, giving small returns to the community on the state of the work, especially when we are talking about abstract or intangible issues, which become material and visible in these gifts. For example, a video edition on what has been learned in the process; a small photographic exhibition; a public, open event, with a party, in which the conclusions reached so far are explained; or the organisation of a community meal in which the facilitators offer a meeting space for the whole community.

These are special moments to collectively review and share the value of the work done, to thank each of the contributions of the community and participants, and to recognise the power of collective learning. Celebrating is one of the acts that unites us most as humanity, those moments we take to stop the routine and recognise achievements and people. Our suggestion is that the community celebrates with intention and identity, marks in the calendar the crucial moments in its history and strengthens as a group, celebrates them and shares them.

Celebration as a unifying element and its engagement function, starts from a philosophical perspective of community action processes with care at the centre. From this thesis, the sustainability of any participatory process depends on the home that is built for its participants, on the balance of workload, on the recognition of all the voices involved, and on real decision-making by all. This cannot be possible without designing a participation strategy that goes beyond life in the project, but also addresses life during the project. This means that all decisions and actions that are formulated by the mediation must take into account the personal lives and extra workloads of certain groups that are normally more vulnerable to participate in this type of projects, such as single women with dependents, migrants who have closed spaces of trust, young people who are exploited in the workplace...

The design of a participatory process that is careful with the conditions of all is crucial to guarantee the active participation of the community with which we work.

Tool:
The Bartender Guide

The following tool can be found in the KOOPtel Toolkit, and has been developed by Colaborabora (in spanish)

In keeping with the emphasis on the importance of celebrating and enjoying together we will use the analogy of comparing the figure of a neighbourhood facilitator to a good bartender, a master in the art of mixing and shaking ingredients for a delicious result.

Having a figure in charge of accompaniment and mediation tasks is very important, at least in the first moments of a cooperation process.

The best thing is that the role of bartender is performed by an external agent, a specialist in facilitating cooperation and innovation processes. But if it is not possible, this work can also be carried out by one of the participating agents, on a fixed or rotating basis in each work session (whoever acts as a bartender should not intervene with other roles in the process).

The functions of the bartender:

Sustaining the process:

One of the functions of the bartender is to make sure that all the people participate and stay connected to the dynamics of the process. For this, in addition to productive methodologies (oriented towards specific objectives), it is important to dedicate different times to attend to the state and needs of the members of the group. A basic scheme to follow can be:

  1. Opening the sessions:
    • Start question. Aimed at knowing how people arrive, their state of mind, their disposition. Symbolic questions of the type can be used: What drink do you feel identified with? What is your favourite cocktail and the ideal time to drink it? or indirectly related to the tasks to be undertaken in that session.
    • Expectation and boycott. Each participant writes on cards (green and red) their expectations for the session (green) and their possible boycott strategy (red). They are delivered to the bartender. This information will not be used in the session, but it is useful for the participants to become aware of their disposition before it. By repeating this exercise in each session, the bartender can monitor the attitude with which each participant faces the process.
    • Contextualise the session: Presentation of the session (and/or review of the previous one) and presentation of the specific objectives and dynamics for the session that is going to take place. And place the session within the global process, so that everyone shares the steps and the direction of progress (we are going to do this because we did that before and then we will do that).
  2. Break:
    • Disconnect. The participants can relax, take care of an emergency, have a coffee. The bartender leaves the second part of the session ready and can take advantage of it for some people and find out their perception of it.
    • Motivational element. Begin the second part of the session with a short video, song, current news, which serves to reconnect with the activity.
  3. Closing the sessions:
    • Summary. Make visible and value the work done (as indicated in point 4.- of the guide). Make a collective review of what was worked on in the session and a round of individual evaluations on the degree of satisfaction in relation to the contents and/or the general dynamics of the session. These comments are included in the summary record and also help modify future actions if necessary. A simple way to do this can be to use the self-assessment system known as the Motorola Report, which consists of answering 4 questions:
      • What has gone well?
      • What has gone wrong?
      • What have we learned?
      • What will we do differently next time?
    • Tasks. Establish and remember possible exercises to be carried out between sessions (see the point Energising the time between sessions).
    • Final word. End the session by sharing a word that synthesises what each one takes away from the session: an emotion, something surprising, a lesson, an idea…
  4. This moment of closing must be taken care of especially in the fourth and last session of the project, since a good closing can determine the continuity or not of the cooperation project.

  5. Energising the time between sessions. The bartender is primarily concerned with keeping the group feeling and dynamics alive between sessions (with the intention that other people in the group take responsibility for this function). Without being somewhat intrusive. For this she uses email (whatsapp, telegram or similar).
    • Sending the summary of the work.
    • Advance of the agenda of the next session.
    • Reminder of tasks.
    • Proposal of small games and stimuli: things like making lists, exchanging links and files, if it were..., appointments, etc. work very well.

Exercise:
Care Laboratories

Care laboratories are an invitation to develop a space together for the sustainability of care in our organisations. It can be shaped in many different ways but it starts from the assumption that we urgently need these spaces in every kind of organisation.

It’s not a methodology, a tool or a device but an open invitation to keep thinking about this together. We imagine it as a permanent space in social organisations that benefit from peer to peer methodologies and actions that foster spaces where power dynamics can be openly discussed. As we have pointed out, these care debates have to produce material shifts in the way organisations manage their resources. Care labs is a space where members can research, develop and care for processes that have an impact on the organisational level and the way they interact with their working context.

Hereafter, we outline some of the general values a Care Laboratory needs to take into account for its implementation: