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Getting a community engaged

Must read article in the Winter 2007 edition of strategy + business from Booz / Allen / Hamilton.

"The Community Network Solution: In reweaving the social fabric of a city or town, relationships trump rank" by Karen Stephenson.

Here’s Karen’s take on community engagement. Organizers draw up a wish list of usual suspects, the key players and power brokers. Everyone convenes for a first meeting, pens a vision statement and puts out a media release declaring Local Leadership Team Sets to Work!

And then the project goes nowhere. Why? "An ambitious local undertaking is practically guaranteed to fizzle if it relies on people whose chief qualification is a high place in the pecking order. Whenever change is on the agenda, the power of relationships trumps the power of position." Instead of relying on org charts, go with maps that highlight social networks and key connectors.

So what to do? Check out Karen’s work with community affairs group Leadership Philadelphia. The group put out a call for nominations to identify the city’s key connectors (folks who are the hubs of impressive social networks and who get stuff done). Nominations asked:

  • Who do you consider highly innovative?
  • Who brings ideas about the "big picture" to his or her efforts?
  • Who has the integrity, concern for the common good, and guts needed to get this project done?
  • Who would roll up his or her sleeves in order to see this project through to the very end?
  • Who would you depend on to help bring together local resources?

The group came up with a shortlist of 101 connectors. And there was only a 1 percent overlap between the connectors and a local magazine’s list of Philadelphia’s 100 Most Powerful People.

Loads more insight in the article. Go out and buy the magazine.

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