Jennifer Presley

Community Engagement Matters

As I reflect on our mission-driven work at SCP, it’s undeniable that community engagement is paramount.  In my role as Director of Community Engagement, I not only constantly review trends and research strategies focused on Community Engagement, yet I directly engage with those we serve in all we do--as those we serve are our community. I’ve found that community engagement can be operationalized in many ways--from feedback to community events--but the important role it plays in decision-making and strategy is consistent.

If you intend to successfully work with and in the community, it is important that you engage the community. This engagement will directly affect the longevity of your business or organization.

I firmly believe that community engagement inspires human connection across diverse groups of people, this is why it is my passion. Community engagement allows folks to come together because of a shared interest and for the common good.

In my first two months at Strategic Community Partners (SCP), I have seen first-hand, the importance of community engagement and why it matters to our mission-driven work.  

On November 9, we  partnered with United Way of Southeastern Michigan and over 75 other community organizations and stakeholders  to host over 1,500 high school freshmen from Detroit Public Schools Community District at Ford Field for the second annual 2018 Find Your Future: Career and Exploration Fair. Every aspect of this event was designed by engaging the community--from discussions with our partners, facilitators, volunteers, and most importantly, our students. This event brought together people from many different backgrounds; working alongside one another for a common goal:  The future of high school freshmen. This event is one example of how our community comes together to further the interest of Detroit youth in diverse career pathways, college attendance, and engagement with resources that support them along their journey.

While the Find Your Future Career Exploration Fair  was incredible and impactful, it is not the only project wherein I’ve witnessed the power of community engagement. That said, I offer a few tips to put community engagement at the forefront:

  • There must be a strategy in place to help guide the efforts to engage a community.

  • Don’t define your goals before you engage!  People want to feel a part of the process and projects that affect their communities.

  • It is important to embed community in all of your operations, you can’t silo the work--it has to be a part of everyone’s role.  Create your strategic plans with the community at the center—this will produce better outcomes.

Ultimately, community engagement helps all people in our communities. It helps us to share, to listen and to understand one another; and at the end of the day, people want to be heard, understood, and supported. This is foundational to community engagement. And this is the heart of our work at Strategic Community Partners.