Today I was working on planning the 2011-12 Seattle Youth Engagement Cadre with Kyla Lackie of SOAR and Lois Brewer of Seattle Public Schools Youth Engagement Zone project. Kyla and I were talking about different ways folks engage throughout their lives when I had an epiphany about how to illustrate this dynamic between self-oriented engagement and socially-oriented engagement. Rather than draw it on a static spectrum I saw the necessity of demonstrating the breadth of value different activities can have towards their given ends. Quickly brainstorming some possibilities, I acknowledged the following patterns emerge in my own work:
Different types of engagement activities affect different people in different ways. The broadest measurement for success in engaging people is how closely they fit a given definition of engagement. I have defined engagement as emotional or psychological connection a person feels with a thing outside of themselves. This definition makes no value judgment about different perspectives and outcomes of engagement; instead, it positions engagement as a non-linear phenomenon both within and outside of an individual.
For the purpose of measuring the efficacy of an activity in relationship to this definition, participants identify a variety of activities that engage people within themselves and in their own lives, and activities that engage people outside of themselves and throughout their whole communities. Activities that may engage a person within themselves could include exercise, listening to music, studying, meditation, and reading. Activities that may engage a person throughout their larger world include reading the newspaper, eating dinner with your family, volunteering at an animal shelter, sitting on a nonprofit board of directors, volunteering for a play, and so forth. Being as specific as possible is useful.
The essential part of this activity happens next: After a brief conversation comparing what they’ve found in their own identifying of activities, participants would then chart their actions on the following diagram. In this diagram, activities with the most impact on an individual would be charted at the extremes of the spectrum, while activities with the least impact would be in the middle. Participants’ worksheets may look something like this:
When completed, participants should have a wide array of activities represented on their Spectrum of Engagement, acknowledging the depth and breadth of engagement activities that are happening throughout a given community.
Let me know what you think!
Read a follow-up to this post at https://commonaction.org/2012/02/21/spectrum-of-engagement-part-2/