“Engagement” is a popular term right now, but what does it really mean?
While the definition can vary widely, engagement is really the cornerstone of movement building.
Engagement IS organizing.
Engagement, whether it’s digital or face-to-face, is about conversations that move people to take action. That action might be online. It might be a Retweet or changing a profile picture to stand in solidarity. It might be a donation or a thunderclap. It might be organizing advocacy calls to elected officials to influence a policy decision. It might be getting together to stuff envelopes and break bread (or pizza) together.
However you define it, engagement is the critical combination of paying attention to your community and empowering that community to take action when it matters.
Like traditional organizing, digital organizing builds power through developing strong relationships, amplifying victories, finding places of collaboration, and finding ways to deepen and recognize commitment and support.
It can also build your organization’s culture. Your action and interaction communicate how your organization values its supporters and members. Your ladder of engagement can articulate how you connect, respond, validate and grow leaders. It also shows how your organization treats information, particularly when it comes to talking about victories or defeats facing the campaign you’re working on.
So how does this relate to building a robust ladder of engagement? It’s essential that the actions and interactions created by your organization form a path that is accessible, interesting and responsive to the community you’re creating.
We have to ask ourselves what emotions are at work as we bring in new supporters? How do those emotions correspond to action? And most importantly, how do we support them in moving up that ladder? Often, I have seen organizations struggle with building leaders, or growing a healthy volunteer base. When this is the case, we have to re-examine and possibly reboot that ladder. Are we sure there are enough rungs on the ladder? How do we get a clear, evidence-driven answer to how many members or supporters live on each rung? And how do we make sure none of our engagement rungs are broken or missing?
These are the questions we’ll be exploring in our next webinar on Tuesday, September 13th. (11 a.m. PST). The webinar boils down two important case studies on using social media to add depth and traction to our ladder of engagement systems. We’ll discuss how we gather evidence to find out how well our ladders are working, and how we might detect and repair broken or missing rungs. We also will talk about the importance of follow-up communication in cultivating leaders.
Can’t make it? You can still check out our new ladder of engagement planning worksheet! Download it here.