How can you ensure that your community engagement is authentic and valuable? If you’ve ever filled out a survey from an institution for some project, then never saw any results or followup, you probably felt taken advantage of. That’s the last thing you want from the community affected by your project.

When talking to your stakeholders, focus on sharing the benefits they will experience rather than talking up your aspirations and values. Be transparent about your endeavors, and communicate with stakeholders’ feelings in mind.

Many communities have been burned by organizations that took a transactional approach with stakeholders. Members of those communities tend to be skittish, and when you try to claim or carve out space for your platform, it can often backfire. Instead of shoving yourself into the mix, take a step back and let people come to you.

For example, identify the events and traditions that are important in the community, and use those opportunities for a pop-up event where you can engage with stakeholders in a more natural way. You’ll likely gain better insights into the effect your project will have.

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