Parsing Vocabulary

DictionaryIn Engagement Vocabulary I introduced work-in-progress definitions of audience development, audience engagement, and community engagement.

[To repeat:

  • Audience Development is a marketing strategy designed for immediate results (sales, donations, etc.).
  • Audience Engagement is a marketing strategy designed for deepening relationships with current stakeholders and expanding reach over time.
  • Community Engagement is a mission strategy designed to create and maintain relationships with individuals and communities. The desired end results are deepened relationships and expanded reach for the arts organization and healthier, more vibrant communities.]

But definitions are abstract things. It’s a good idea to flesh them out in order to make them meaningful. Here is a chart of questions to ask of projects or programs that may be helpful in differentiating among them.

Audience Development

Audience Engagement

Community Engagement

When was the community considered?

Before programming selections were made

X

As programming decisions were made

Maybe

X

After programming decisions were made

X

X

Does a relationship exist with the community or subset?

 

 

 

Not really

X

Maybe

Yes, related to the event

X

Yes, separate from the event

X

Did the community have input into the event’s content?

No

Probably not

Yes

What was the nature of the community input into the event?

Conceptual

Probably not

Yes

Participants: Implementers, Co-creators, Creators

Maybe

Maybe

Has the relationship been maintained after the event?

No

Probably not

Yes

I’ll reiterate that all of this is still “work in progress.” However, the basic questions:

  • When was the community considered?
  • Does a relationship already exist with the community?
  • Did the community have input into content?
  • What was the nature of the community input into the event?
  • And particularly, has the relationship been maintained after the event?

all lead us to better understand the role (and timing) of relationships with the community in defining the terms. The third question is of considerable importance. If the selection of work presented does not come from relationship-based awareness of community interests or needs or from direct community input, there is really no community engagement involved. But it’s important to understand that the previous sentence is an “or” statement. Community engagement does not need to mean that the community picks the work. If the arts organization understand the community well enough to know the community’s interests (NOTE: This is a difficult thing.), then selections made that address those interests are a demonstration of community engagement.

And the last question is an important one. The world of the arts is by its nature event focused. We finish one and we want to move on to the next. However, community engagement demands relationship maintenance. Think how it would feel if you were invited to and participated in a major party by a new friend and that new friend then went on to hold many more parties and never talked to you again. That’s the experience of some communities who have been exposed to “hit and run” relationships with arts organizations.

Next time. I’ll try to explain this using a specific work to illustrate the three approaches.

Engage!

Doug

Photo:Attribution Some rights reserved by greeblie

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