Takeaways & Theories on DEI
DEI is the holy grail of community engagement these days, and it’s a challenge that everyone at ComEngage relishes and is personally invested in. It’s a work in progress for all those working in the market research/insights industry as well as the public sector, and we’ve all seen RFP’s and projects where it looked like it was being done poorly. Just providing access is not enough!
ComEngage has been ahead of the curve on the inclusion of traditionally underrepresented populations in community engagement for some time now, applying industry best practices in various approaches. We’re quite good at it – we will include all of those who want to be included, and we will reach all those who are reachable – but there’s always the small percentage of people who are hard to reach and/or get to participate.
We proactively evaluate what works, what doesn’t, what lessons we learned, and where we ran into a wall and couldn’t go any further. If, as the pithy saying I made up and Nate (our Chief Solutions Officer) has now adopted goes, “The underrepresented are underrepresented for a reason,” then what is that reason, and what can we do about it?
Well, here is where I’m at after a year in the trenches, where we’ve done pretty well, but we want to do better. This is my current working hypothesis on the keys to successful outreach and participation with the more difficult-to-reach underrepresented populations.
Recommended Strategies to Effectively Reach the Underrepresented
- Go where they are. Take the research and engagement effort to them rather than expecting them to come to you. Someday, I’ll get my wish, and we’ll hand out survey invitation cards at community soccer fields during weekends.
- Reach out to the people they trust – community leaders at community organizations, non-profits, etc. Find out whom they trust and enlist their help.
- Get direct, person-to-person buy-in, not just mediated by a third party, between those conducting the engagement and the community leaders providing the outreach assistance. Conducting one-on-one interviews with these leaders builds that connection while providing valuable insight.
- Trusted community leaders reach out directly to their own groups conveying the big 3 – trust, access, and validation.
- FOLLOW UP! A certain percentage of your target group will participate immediately when invited by someone they trust and given ready access. For those who decide to put it off until later, participation rates fall sharply without follow-up from those trusted sources, reinforcing the message that their voice matters.
That’s what I have learned so far. We’re working with current clients to implement this approach, and we’re working on partnerships for new projects to bring in extra subject matter expertise.
If you’d like to engage in further conversation about this topic or how ComEngage can assist with your community engagement, please connect with me at Sam@ComEngage.us or book some time to chat via my calendar link.
Client Relationship / Research & Engagement Manager
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