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Since the turn of the millennium there have been an increasing number of individuals and organizations sounding the clarion call for engagement. Demanding that we emerge from our self-inflicted drunken-like apathetic slumber, we’re called to “get involved”, “do something”, and “make a difference” in all sorts of ways focused on politics, the environment, the economy, education, faith communities, the Internet, and countless other places.
Acting on a type of hierarchical insistence, a peculiar noblesse oblige motivates most of these demands. Well-meaning engagement advocates believe they know what the world needs, and according to them, the world needs YOU. Glaring from all their ads, websites, editorials, and other publicity campaigns is the implication that if you were engaged in their topic/issue/action/orientation/idea then the world would be a better place.
Unfortunately, this widespread perspective is cynically dismissive of the engagements people already have in their lives. It patently denies that the things people are currently engaged in are valuable and important, or that they have a larger role in the health and welfare of society. There is a unacknowledged conceit within many community engagement programs, and no matter how well-intended they are they simply deny what individuals are bringing to the table, every single day in every single way.
I think our work needs to aspire to engage everyone, everywhere, all the time. I’m interested in seeing poor people, stay-at-home moms, prisoners, mail clerks, and patients live engaged, as well as youth, students, grandparents, and poets. We all have the capacity to become sustainably connected throughout all of our lives all of the time, no matter who we are, where we’re from, or how we live. Life should be no less than this.
CommonAction staff are available to train on personal engagement, Heartspace, and much more. Contact Adam Fletcher to discuss opportunities for your community, organization, or agency by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (360) 489-9680.