The Engage Network | The Power of Being Heard

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“Listening looks easy, but it’s not simple. Every head is a world.” — Cuban Proverb

Since 2007 the Engage Network has been working to inspire change through working with organizations interested in creating full-scale change. Their foundation for creating change is in simply listening. In this way they help create connections that rely on our very human need/desire to be a part of a group and our desire to successfully work together, which is something that social networks just don’t do–though they too have an extraordinarily important place in creating significant shifts.

Engage begins by starting to work with organizations offline, engaging them in a process that includes listening to what individuals “on the edges of the organization” have to express and leveraging what they learn in order to make large-scale, meaningful impact.

They say, “Many of our clients are organizations that have had great success in building up an online list, but for one reason or another, the list has been shrinking (often along with online donations). Or they have created a campaign that commanded attention once upon a time, but now that attention is waning. Our clients want to build a more meaningful connection with constituents, donors and members, but don’t know how to do it to scale.

“The average campaign lasts six months to one year; yet what happens to all of your momentum after that? The Engage Network is poised to make the most meaningful impact when an organization wants to build a movement that lasts beyond the campaign cycle. Our target is what happens beyond the two year mark.

“Our engagements help your organization thrive by expanding your base online and offline, building local leadership and growing donors from an email list. As a result, you can expect an exponential increase in deeply-purposed, enthusiastic leaders in all program regions year after year.”

So far some of their biggest successes have come from working with groups such as Off the Mat, What’s Your Tree, and Slow Food USA.

From their Web site, here’s a taste of the first phase of engagement:


Each project begins with a deep assessment of your organization during the Discovery Phase. In this phase we:

1.    Review Materials. We review the organization’s mission, vision, goals, theory of change, work plans, strategy and constituent communications.

2.    Listen. We conduct a formal listening process to harvest learning from the edges of an organization. Typically we do one-on-one listening with a cross section of constituents, donors, leaders, and target audience members. The scope of this listening depends on the network size and organizational budget, but is never fewer than 20 people.

3.    Train. In most projects, we encourage organizations to do a “secondary listening” where we train staff to do listening sessions; we then develop a process for staff to experience listening to the edges. Finally, we debrief the staff and incorporate their findings in our planning.

4.    Survey. Where appropriate, we survey segments of the organization’s membership. Typically we recommend against this strategy due to its significant biases and limitations; however, in certain cases, we will conduct an online survey to gather more information.

5.    Manage Buy In.When we have done about 75%-90% of the discovery, we present preliminary findings to key stakeholder groups within the organization to get their feedback (and buy-in). Typically this will include the Board of Directors, the Senior Staff, and the top grassroots leaders in the organization.“The Engage Network marries the best of online with [their] unique approach to offline base building. The result is robust networks of deeply engaged donors, members and constituents.”

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