Strategy for Community Engagement
Moving the Dial
When you ask yourself this question, having tolerance is the first step to gaining cultural competency. Tolerance is the fair, objective, permissive attitude towards people whose opinions, race, or religion differ from your own. It expresses the sentiment that “I can live with X”. Full approval is not necessary for one to reach this stage. Unproductive moments can be seen playing out on the national stage as many attention-grabbing “us vs. them” conversations flood TV news hours and chat shows. Treating others how you want to be treated is necessary to create an environment where experiences can be shared.
Beyond tolerance – acceptance and understanding also play a large role in successful engagement.
Still, there is more that can be done to increase the effectiveness of our engagement efforts. And that is to understand. To truly understand is to be open minded and willing to learn. The goal in all of this is to be able to deal with others’ differences effectively. And understanding is the surest way of doing so. It takes a person from “X is an okay way of thinking or being” to “I might not like or agree with X, but I can respect X…I can listen.” It may be that person A feels strongly about a candidate for public office, a candidate person B feels strongly against. Person B may not agree with person A’s beliefs but it’s important for person B to respect person A’s beliefs and be able to listen.
It is important to note that small actions count. Consult with the community on appropriate places to meet that are convenient for participants. Learn people’s names, share a meal or at least bring snacks, and be sincere in your efforts. This only takes a willingness to engage with openness and benevolence, and to apologize when you’re wrong. Then, the focus turns to moving forward together.