Archive for engagement

Encouraging Civic Engagement: A WDinExt Podcast

I found out about the “Get Engaged! A Guide to Getting Involved in Your Community” program on Twitter. Eric Walcott, a State Specialist with Michigan State University Extension’s Government and Public Policy programs, was sharing his experience offering the program in Grand Traverse County, Michigan. Here are the 2 tweets that prompted me to reach out to Eric.

Our conversation for the podcast covers the “Get Engaged” program, but also Eric’s work talking with local governments about real engagement. As we talked, I was reminded of this Gapingvoid illustration:

A post shared by gapingvoid® (@gapingvoid) on

Eric referenced the Public Participation Spectrum from the International Association for Public Participation as a resource for increasing public engagement. I think it’s a great resource, not just for governments, but for Extension programs. Eric wrote a series of articles on the public participation spectrum. This is the first article in the series: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/public_participation_beyond_public_comment_at_open_meetings and here’s the last onewith links to all the prior articles: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/engaging_the_public_in_local_government_decisions_empower.

Listen to the podcast

Effective Community-Engaged Outreach: A WDinExt Podcast

Sara Axtell and Kari Smalkoski are two of the authors of the Journal of Extension article, “One Size Does Not Fit All: Effective Community-Engaged Outreach Practices with Immigrant Communities.” When I first read the article, I immediately connected it to my interest in collective action networks. Community-engaged outreach practices prioritize relationship building, reciprocity and two-way sharing of knowledge. All of those priorities have a place in a networked approach to problem solving as well.

Cooperative Extension needs to do a better job of engaging the public, not just as audience members, but as co-learners and co-creators. As Sara said in the podcast, we need to think about where the ideas for our programs come from, what issues we are trying to address and about “partnering with communities and engaging with communities way before a program starts.” Sara continued, we need to “remember that communities have their own priorities that might be different than our priorities.” When we create programs first, without including the community in that creation, it’s difficult to think of the community as anything other than audience, a group to be talked at and marketed to.

Photo credit: courtesy Ramsey County Minnesota on Flickr, https://flic.kr/p/9wsiYi