WORKING OUT LOUD...
I came across the concept of "differentiation" when I was taking the Gifted and Talented Education program at University of San Diego Extension. I was captivated by the idea of leveraging strengths and meeting needs that it became a core practice in my work, including my involvement with Neurodiversity Foundation. This is the foundation in which I designed this slider theory of engagement.
For those following me in social media, you might have come across my previous posts and stance on what engagement is. I emphasized on the need to use a slider perspective when it comes to community engagement that is based on a person’s own “RATE” (Resources, Attention, Time and Energy). If we are to take this into consideration, we are bound to expect that the type and quality of engagement differs for each person depending on where that person is at a given point in their lives. We need to offer differentiated ways in which people can connect, engage and be in belonging to the community that meets them where they are at.
Engagement is a big buzzword, and it's one of the main metrics that we, as community builders, weavers, founders, measure our communities. High engagement from how I see it carries a price to our members. It takes a big toll on members and a Harvard article has emphasized on this.
Asking our members to be highly engaged has a pitfall - It carries with it an expectation that there is one right way where members are expected to participate, a specific tempo or energy that people need to bring in to the community or organization.
I prefer to see engagement as A SLIDER.
MY SLIDER THEORY OF ENGAGEMENT, IN A NUTSHELL, IS THAT WE NEED TO PROVIDE DIFFERENTIATED MEANS FOR PEOPLE TO ENGAGE IN WAYS THAT ARE NURTURING FOR THEM.
Engagement means empowering people to connect, contribute, activate, support and respond in ways that are regenerative. This means it take into account the depth, breadth and focus that is possible for an individual in a given moment.
Differentiation in the field of education is a framework or philosophy to enable students of all levels to attain their full potential. Differentiation means providing a diverse classroom of learners a range of different avenues for understanding new information to acquire content; process, construct, or make sense of ideas; and develop teaching materials and assessment measures so that all students can learn effectively, regardless of differences in their ability.
Differentiated engagement in the context of community involves providing different avenues for people to engage in ways that are regenerative. This would mean that an individual can intentionally decide what form of engagement would best suit them on a given moment of their lives. High engagement should not be the metrics of success rather we need to look at the slider of engagement.
My main point of inquiry:
How are we providing different opportunities for people to engage based on the depth, breadth and focus of what is possible for them to truly meet them where they are at a given moment?
Here are my thoughts on what this Slider Theory of Engagement can be but before I immersed on that, I would like to say thank you to Get Together for their work has served as inspiration on the 3 Phases, a special thank you to Eleanora Spagnuolo whom I collaborated before with Co.Lab where the I started playing with these ideas and for Jessica Russell, who was part of the Vision 20/20 program for her contribution to the word "discerners".
WHO CAN YOU FIND IN THE SYSTEM?
Fence sitters- a person, group or hubs that do not have a concrete decision if they are for or against your community
Discerners- people, group or hubs who are listening and watching from a distance. Taking in what you are sharing publicly from a place of curiosity and learning.
Deconstructors- people, group or hubs that are slowly questioning their frameworks, mindsets, activities based on their engagement with what you are sharing. They are starting to reconsider certain positions or values they have held based on what they are learning.
Resonators- people, groups or hubs who are finding resonance with your vision, mission, cause. They find themselves in the stories shared and see the need to engage more to find solutions and companionship.
Conversators- people, groups or hubs who begin to engage in meaningful conversations with others in the community. They are now sharing their stories and have increased interests in the activities.
Enablers- these are people, groups or hubs that are taking part in the various projects, initiatives, activities. They find themselves excited to participate and to adopt new practices.
Advocators- are the staunch cheerleaders. They are your ambassadors and will gladly share the work, inspiration and information with others.
Initiators- are people, groups or hubs who volunteers to run specific endeavors or activities. They step in a more steward role in the community.
Collaborators- these are your alliances, strategic partners who can amplify the cause of the community. They freely connect with each other to work on specific areas that needs tending or to bring new ideas to life.
Firekeepers- these are people who keeps the sanctity of the community. They are catalysts who keep the flame going and are also teaching or inviting others to bring in their contribution.
And of course there is also from the other side of the fence sitters:
Doubters- who questions things
Naysayers - who criticizes and objects, and
Oppositioners- who outright disapproves and resists your cause
WHAT WOULD BE HELPFUL FOR THEM?
What would be helpful for Dissenters is to meet them with compassion. Compassion as I shared a conversation with my friend Monique Leunissen, means giving space for people to be heard and doing so with boundaries. I do believe in the essence of "pakikipagkapwa" - a Filipino psychology term that means our shared inner selves. It means connecting myself with others, feeling myself in the other and having a sense of shared identity and a shared inner self. According to Virgilio Enriquez, the father of Filipino Psychology, “kapwa” is the “unity of the one-of-us-and-the-other.” When we approach dissenters with compassion we meet them as one-of-us-and-the-other- which also means we provide compassion not only to them but also to ourselves and boundary setting is crucial in getting into generative dialogues.
While for those on the fence, inviting them to spaces where they can engage with community members is important. The invitation to these spaces need variation(differentiation), communication and consistency. It is crucial that we offer safe and brave spaces for interaction.
3 PHASES OF ENGAGEMENT
In stoking the fire- the awareness of who you are inviting in the community, what the community is for and why it exists can help people find themselves in system. It allows for people to have a "soft landing" to the different causes, initiatives or activities. It is crucial that we help them find reverberance with the essence of the community through clarity, connection and cohesion.
When sparking the flame- activating them deeper involves giving them opportunities to contribute based on their resources (including their strengths), attention, time and energy. This might involve setting up more avenues for collective practice and integration.
Pass the torch- for the community, initiative, emergent system to rise and grow, it is also important to sustain and regenerate the community with intentional stewardship. Finding collaborators and co-creators are important along with identifying catalysts that will keep the flame burning.
" Your own fire, your spirit. We all carry a piece of that sacred fire within us. We have to honour it and care for it. You are the firekeeper." - Robin Wall Kimmerer
In the next Community Alchemy, I will try to expand on this Slider theory some more on my thoughts on how to guide, engage and navigate people in the system as well as possible barriers to engagement.