Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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8 Oct 2009

James Samuel’s 6 Steps of Community Engagement

Regular readers will be familiar with James Samuel by now, a founder of Transition in New Zealand, and publisher of the blog Yesterday’s Future.  If you have seen ‘In Transition’, James is the guy discussing Oooby with the outrageous shirt.  He was recently asked to give a talk to a local CSA project, giving them some ideas for how to manage their project.  He developed a 6 stage process which looks like a good way of looking at creating successful projects.  You can see his presentation below, and read a transcript of it here.

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Jennifer Lauruol
8 Oct 9:52am

This is an excellent model–but I feel, from 40 years’ community action experience, that two essential stages have been left out:

During ‘work’ the team needs to check in regularly to see how things are going and sort out problems when they are small. This helps avoid grudges and bad emotional stuff from building up.

At the end of the process, there needs to be a review and learning about what went well, and why; and what needs changing in the future. If this is not carried out, people will continue to make the same errors time after time.

Ed Straker
8 Oct 5:09pm

I’ve already reached an impasse at the “team up” phase.

Robert Gahtan
18 Oct 4:49pm

I think these six steps are very good, however you should consider fleshing them out. Here are some suggestions for your consideration.

Step one (the naming of the Project) can be a very difficult task. It is easier to state the goal of the project, and let the Team come up with the name. That is an excellent step in engaging the team,. The goal (written) should not be overly defined. (that will be done elsewhere. examples of goal statements might be: Renovate the Senior Center or Establish a Community Currency or Convert the Vacant lot into a Community garden.

A goal will make it easier to recruit people to the team than just a project name. Project names rarely include as much information as a goal statement, and can readily be misunderstood or lead to ambiguity.

Let the Team come up with a clever, short, clear, inspiring, easily remembered project name.

Instead of a project name, I would suggest that in addition to stating the goal, you make a first attempt at answering the question WHY? In other words what are the benefits of completing this project? Why do it? Knowing those benefits, and being able to clearly articulate them will make it easier to recruit a team and will also serve to inspire them when the going gets rough, as it undoubtedly will.

An additional value of writing down the answers to the question WHY? will also place you on a firmer footing. It may very well turn out that the benefits are just not worth all the effort that the project will require, and that you should either change the goal or modify it.

Believe it or not, I also have suggestions for step 2. (that’s why I am rarely invited a second time to dinner parties).