civic engagement community engagement engagement personal engagement student engagement

Best Practices in Engagement

For the first decade of my career I worked in local nonprofits across the US doing direct, line-level community and youth engagement work. Intuitively using empowerment-driven activities, I was involved in education, mentoring, youth development, adventure, and many other types of programs. For the next ten years after that, I was a consultant and trainer, freelancing with organizations and institutions around the world to promote new roles for all people throughout society, including youth and adults. All this has put me in a unique position to call out best practices in personal engagement by organizations.

While I was conducting research for my graduate studies in educational leadership and policy studies, I found that a series of best practices emerged when organizations focused on engaging their constituents. Whether looking at police departments, small businesses, hospitals, the military, or other mainstream social institutions, engagement frequently looked like something done to and for constituents rather than with or by them. Contrasting these studies to my own experiences, I found there is a missing component in almost all community engagement efforts.

Adam “engaging” with youth in Santa Barbara, CA.

My work and research has shown me over and over that personal engagement is key for successful (effective/sustainable) community engagement. There are finite, practical things every organization can do to foster personal engagement. Following are a few key elements I have found for successful personal engagement in organizations. I’m going to introduce them here, and expand on each one individually over the next few weeks.

Best Practices in Engagement

The BEST engagement efforts…

  1. Help People See What They’re Engaged in Within Their Own Lives.
  2. Foster Meaningful Involvement for ALL People.
  3. Allow No More Tokenism.
  4. Engage Consciously, Not Conveniently.
  5. Center On Personal-Driven Engagement.
  6. Build Upon Existing Engagement.
  7. Live REAL Reciprocity.
  8. Encourage Living Fully and Wholly, First.
  9. Require Equity and Equality.
  10. Make Meaning from Living.

I believe these same elements are necessary for all constituents, whether young people or adults, people of color and people of European descent, low-income, working class, and beyond. Read with me over the next few weeks as I identify what these elements of best practice are, where they happen, and what makes them matter so much. As I have taught for more than a decade, these can serve as the foundation of strong programs, and so much more.

CommonAction staff is available to train on Best Practices in Engagement, Personal Engagement, Community Engagement, and much more. 
Contact me to talk about the possibilities by emailing or calling (360)489-9680.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

By Adam F.C. Fletcher

I'm a speaker, writer, trainer, researcher and advocate who researches, writes and shares about education, youth, and history.

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