ELEMENT 1: CURIOSITY
Participatory cultures are built by each individual asking Questions of Self:
- What do I want? (in my life, company, community, city)
- What can I give?
As each person awakens to their power to contribute, they then ask Questions of Others:
- What do you want to see improved?
- What are your ideas on how that can happen?
- What is stopping progress from being made?
- How do you think you can help?
Questions of Others are key to initiating stakeholder engagement. These questions allow people to offer ideas and be heard, while thinking of how they can be part of the solution.
ELEMENT 2: INCLUSION
"Nothing about us without us."
If you're solving a problem to effectively benefit a group or individual, you must include them in the solution-making process. The people experiencing the problem have specific, local, cultural and community knowledge that outsiders lack, and which is often necessary in creating successful solutions. If you build it, they will come; but if they build it, they will stay. Involve your stakeholders from the beginning.
ELEMENT 3: ACCESS TO PHYSICAL SPACE
Physical space is necessary for social collisions, ideation, and relationship building. These places can be designed to be free, low-cost, accessible to diverse people, and architected for sparking relationships. Examples: Google's Tel Aviv Campus event space (free to members); Harvard Innovation Lab (open to Harvard students from any school within Harvard) ; Freespace and Mazeh 9 (anyone can become a member for free).
ELEMENT 4: ACCESS TO INFORMATION
This is the era of connection, networked by the Internet. Wifi access is a must, and accelerates innovative problem solving, idea generation and empowers citizens who want to get involved. Basic education on how to use the Internet and access to it are imperative to citizen engagement.
If you want to scale solutions, it requires information exchange via communications resources provided to your stakeholders. Replication of civic engagement requires empowering participants with the storytelling tools necessary to inspire their neighbors, friends and others to action. These tools and their associated content should be collaboratively produced with the citizens. Ideally the citizens can learn to produce their own communications media through software and technical training. "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish an you feed him for a lifetime."
Information communications tools can include: simple promotions kits for online or print use; how to make printed or digital materials; how to use social media for storytelling. RLabs in Cape Town, South Africa is teaching its community how "to fish".
Part Three comprises three behaviors to drive engagement:
ELEMENT 5: TRANSLATING
Translating means facilitating communications across differences (cultures, age, language, opinions, etc.), which is often necessary. Communications can break down when two parties fail to see their shared interests. The behavior of translating facilitates mutual understanding. The “translator” must be trusted and listened to by all parties involved.
ELEMENT 6: CONNECTING
Connecting means building “the human network” by introducing people to each other when you foresee they will mutually benefit from the introduction. Connecting is relationship building and an act of generosity — it requires paying attention to what gaps people are looking to fill in their work and projects, and then making introductions as appropriate. Connecting specifically refers to identifying needs, seeing available human capital, and connecting individuals person-to-person. The generous act of Connecting seeks only to build the human network -- connectors facilitate introductions without the need to gain from them.
ELEMENT 7: INVITING
Inviting is the simple act of inviting someone to participate. It begins by learning a person’s interests or skills and inviting them to get involved in something. An invitation is an opening -- it's opening a door and saying, "Hey, would you like to help us make this? Would you like to lend a hand on this bigger endeavor that we're passionate about? Would you like to come play with us?" The Intergenerational Learning Center in Seattle, WA has done this beautifully with an invitation for elderly folks to interact with preschoolers. The Burning Man communities around the world are thriving from inviting people to create together -- "Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play."
Special thanks to Lionel Mitelpunkt for his research support.