Community Engagement: Gardening in the Front Yard
I really enjoyed reading this article entitled “Community Engagement: Gardening in the Front Yard”. The author uses gardening in the front yard as a metaphor to describe good community engagement. It has a special place in my heart as an avid gardener but it also makes some really great references that mirror what DP has noted in our Top 10 Lists for Public Engagement. Here’s a couple of the “golden nuggets” I took away and a few pictures from my own front yard garden that my neighbours have helped me build (including 4 year old Ciara):
Community engagement is not about marketing or increased revenues or volunteer recruitment, but it will certainly accomplish those things. It will help you further every single one of your goals, including the ultimate goal — to accomplish your mission — all while building a more engaged community.
But here’s the real secret — and it is what separates community engagement from marketing and all those other “just for show” efforts: For engagement to work, it has to be honest; it has to be real.
So how about your social change efforts? Are you gardening in the front yard? Are you sharing the inner workings of what it takes to do your work, so the world can become engaged with every aspect of that work? Are you being open, inviting participation in everything you do? Are you making it easy for your community to connect so deeply that they feel as if it is their work, too?
Or do you save those inner workings for the back yard, only showing the world a perfectly manicured lawn and hedge? The difference is more than just metaphor. The difference is the degree to which the community feels a part of everything your organization does.”