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Community Engagement: Useful Tools

Are you engaged?

No, seriously engaged? Forget wedding rings, we are talking about engaged in what really matters, on a larger, communal level.

It isn’t all about politics and what can be done at government level. People joining together to form movements, movements that produce leaders - this is the engagement we want to see.

As Plato said “necessity is the mother of all invention” and the need for better community tools is driving the industry to look at where we are falling down on.

Grassroots advocacy can be a highly romanticized idea - many believe that if enough people care about an issue, maybe protest a little maybe someone, somewhere listens and voila, problem solved. But who is this “person” behind the curtain because believe me, there is always someone behind the curtain pulling the strings. Issue and Advocacy campaigns are difficult, some take years to get the attention they work hard for and some just disappear without so much as getting 10 minutes airtime on the local television channels.

What most Issue and Advocacy groups seek to achieve is the same across the board. Identify their cause, gather support, communicate with members and raise the profile of their campaign. Sounds easy? Not so much, all these moving parts mean things can begin to fall through the cracks such as donations, who is sending out emails, are you tracking your expenses, arranging a face to face interactions with your group etc.

So what is out there to help?

NationBuilder

Supporters need to mobilize digitally and this is why NationBuilder is one of the most used software amongst Advocacy groups. By using NationBuilder’s platform, groups save time and can focus on what matters and this is giving a voice to the people who don’t have any.

The one way NB does this is by is social media functionality, through this service you can build a more personal relationship with your supporters. By keeping an eye on what's happening within your nation allows you to tailor your responses accordingly when you are in contact with your community members.

Voxcitio

Voxcitio help groups gather insights which can help transform their campaigns. One such way we do this is by engaging with a citizen, recording their issues and tracking the progress of how these issues are handled.

Creating a framework for engagement and knowing the limits of your resources allows you to be effective in your issue management work.

  • Define the extent of your resources. How many staff do you have and how much of their time can be given to constituent issues?

  • Don’t get bogged down in issues you cannot help with, don’t be afraid to say no or suggest alternative sources of help to the constituent.

  • Understand your strengths. Know what types of issues you are good at resolving. Every representative has a certain network that can be leveraged so understand yours and don’t be afraid to use it to get things done.

So now that we understand the importance of issue tracking, see its value in the context of advocacy campaigns and we have a plan in place to engage with it, how do we actually go about managing it?

Communication: Issue tracking is about communication, or more precisely, maintaining open lines of communication between your team and voters/constituents. The various channels for this are well established for most representatives: social media, constituency clinics, public meetings, email and outreach all provide an interface for communication.

Database: A clear repository to track the issues and to maintain an accurate record is essential. This might be a set of folders on your computer, a software system for issue tracking or just a regular old filing cabinet!

Outreach: It is important to remember that voters and constituents should be actively reached out to on an ongoing basis to see how issues are changing over time. It is easy to get a skewed perspective on constituency issues if you simply wait for issues to come to you. Human nature being what it is, it is likely that you will hear a lot from a small number of vocal constituents on their particular issues but perhaps not hear from the silent majority of constituents who may have a very different set of issues. Outreach work is, therefore, critical in testing the waters through the term of office.

Interested in learning more about Voxcitio, click below.

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