Community Engagement 101

The Yes Men

Launching Successful Community Engagement Campaigns has define the Career of Creative Capital Grantees the Yes Men

Powerful, disruptive ideas beg to be spread. Successful community engagement depends on setting clear objectives, finding your audience, and activating them. Stephanie Bleyer is a master of the community engagement campaign who runs the firm Six Foot Chipmunk. Stephanie helps artists across disciplines create strategic plans, raise funds, and reach and mobilize new audiences. On Thursday June 9th, 2016, she will lead the webinar Producing & Funding Your Community Engagement Campaign. This webinar is essential for artists projects involving social justice, education, public art, or community building. It takes participants through the entire process of producing your campaign starting with letters of inquiry and grant applications all the way through to measuring impact. Artists can ask themselves these five questions as a foundation for your engagement strategy.
1) What are the social goals of my campaign?
Keep in mind that the social goals of your campaign will likely be different from the goals of your art work or overall practice. Think, “I want my audience to think about how many plastic bags they regularly take from grocery stores and ultimately reduce that amount,” instead of, “I want my project to receive awards and praise from environmental foundations and get written up in ArtForum.”
2) Who are my target audience members?
Targeting “everyone” is not an option. Considering demographics is important, but you should also think about the roles your audience members play within the community or system you are trying to affect. For example, if the goal of your campaign is to push legislation that bans plastic bags in grocery stores, do you aim to target the policymakers or their constituents? Stephanie Bleyer recommends making a pyramid or table of concentric circles to prioritize your target groups.
3) How will I reach them?
Consider where your audience lives both online and offline. Do some research. Visit council meetings, community groups, or even message boards. Try asking members of the groups that make up your target audiences.
What kind of social networks do they log in to most often? Are there pages or groups online they frequent? Are there mutually beneficial partnerships you can form with public figures that your audience follows? Ask celebrities or politicians who align with your community engagement objectives to mention you on twitter or shout out your project in their newsletters. Is there a certain section of town that your target audience visits most often? Plan a billboard ad in the neighborhood, pitch stories or take out ads in local publications.
4) How will I move my audience to action?
Get creative. Think about the path a disengaged audience member will take towards becoming a leader of your movement. Will you launch a newsletter or crowd-funding campaign? Maybe you’ll call your audience to circulate a video or offer up perks like tickets to your premiere for outreach volunteers. Plotting an engagement curve or roadmap of actionable steps is a useful strategy to build participation.
There is no right way to inspire your audience to action. Take a tip from the library-loving citizens of Troy, Michigan or look to the tactics of Creative Capital grantees the Yes Men for inspiration.
5) Who are my partners and my allies?
Partners are necessary for successful community engagement campaign. As soon as you begin to flesh out your ideas, think about who might be valuable partners in bringing your project to life. The earlier you bring them on, the more ownership they’ll feel and the more invested in the project’s success they will be. Depending on the goal of your community engagement campaign, your partners may be organizations, institutions, or individuals. Discuss why the partnership will be mutually beneficial and take time to vet your working relationship before making large commitments to one organization. The degree of your partners’ involvement will vary greatly. Some partners might agree to help you promote, others might provide funding or offer fiscal sponsorship.
Start writing down your ideas now and learn more from Stephanie on Thursday, June 9th, 2016. Producing & Funding Your Community Engagement campaign starts at 7:00pm ET. Every Creative Capital webinar offers opportunities to ask questions and discuss the content with the webinar leaders.
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