Event Planning for Community Engagement - My Experience
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to help organize and staff a community engagement event for one of our housing clients. Watching the culmination of a process that spanned multiple weeks of effort, planning, and teamwork, was a great experience. The event connected community members with project staff and facilitated a meaningful exchange of ideas and concerns.
In our line of work, event planning and hosting is a critical tool for starting dialogue and engaging communities. A well-planned and executed event creates an opportunity for individuals to be active participants in the civic and social processes that affect their communities and allows them to explore channels through which they can share their voices on causes that spark their interest.
From choosing the appropriate venue and ensuring all paperwork is complete, to bringing name tags for all staff members and choosing the right refreshments, the details are one of the most important parts of the planning process. Our community engagement event benefited from a venue that was recognizable to our audience, community-oriented, and easily accessible. With a layout that allowed for greater dialogue, and plenty of refreshments and cookies in sight (Milano – my favorite!), the space took a comfortable and interactive demeanor. Providing attendees the opportunity to formally document any feedback and make their voices heard was also a crucial part of the project.
The author interacting with community members at a community engagement event.
While event logistics are an important part of the planning process, nothing is more substantial than the people who get involved. They are the heart and soul of any event, and our goal is to funnel the opportunity of building ongoing and lasting relationships within their community. When someone shows up to an engagement event and sees that their voice is truly being listened to, something clicks – there is more interaction, and more willingness to offer constructive input.
Some of my best workplace moments involve being a part of this mentality switch – meeting, speaking with, and actively listening to community members’ thoughts and comments. At our engagement event, one resident referred to me as her best friend – a statement that touched my heart through its trusting and personal nature.
This experience has taught me how positive and purposeful interaction encourages individuals to engage with the world around them and contribute to the progression of their community. Everyone should feel empowered to be an agent of change, sparking dialogue and developing their community, as we collectively prepare for the next generation of stakeholders.
A wise friend once told me that everyone wants three things in life: to be heard, to be understood, and to be validated. If we continue to provide people a platform for their voice, remain empathetic, seek to comprehend their viewpoints and affirm their concerns, we will emerge as a more dynamic, engaging, and insightful society.
The Listening Booth: Mobility 21 Summit, Los Angeles 2018
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