BY ANDREW COULSON
Monday 3 July 2017 marks the Engage 2 Act Board’s 100th day.
Whilst we hope that on the surface nothing has changed for the local groups, as we still see them as our driving force, the Board has been established to give guidance and support a wider call for members to advance the practice of community engagement.
At our first face to face meeting held over two days in Melbourne the vision for the Board was clear, we wanted to support members who do real community engagement at the local level to network, share and ultimately advance community engagement not just in Australia and New Zealand but amongst all community engagement practitioners worldwide. We wanted to have clear goals and objectives but at the same time we didn't want to take away from the momentum and freeness we were witnessing from the local groups already established in South Australia and Victoria.
We asked ourselves a question - ‘If we could wave a magic wand, where would we be in 5 years? And over the next 100 days what do we need to do to work towards (and sustain) these ambitions?'
This is what we came up with and a quick review of how well we’ve done to date:
Our first objective was about the members and those that value being part of Engage 2 Act. We wanted to ensure that this meant Engage 2 Act remained accessible and affordable, enabling anyone who has an interest in best practice community engagement to be involved.
To date: To help with this the Board have been working on setting up guidelines for local events and committees to help give guidance in States where groups are not yet established on how to set up and how to use the Engage 2 Act brand for an event. There will be guidance for using the Engage 2 Act social media channels and central ticket booking system so everyone knows what is going on when, where and how to get involved.
Secondly we wanted to get us as a Board out there - approachable, accessible and forming relationships.
To date: We are slowly getting there. We have 9 Board members across 2 and 1/2 states in Australia and 1 in North Island New Zealand. (We say 2 and a 1/2 because one Board member currently lives in Victoria but works quite often in NSW giving us a little bit of reach there). The Board members are committed locally with supporting all local events in their areas from social drinks to lunchtime sessions and evening talks. Our Board members are also reaching out when and where possible to new members to ensure they get the most out of being part of Engage 2 Act.
Third, confirm/reiterate that nothing is going to change – especially that we were not going to be charging for membership.
To date: This was a core decision for the Board and something we have tried to relay to all those that have been with us from the start. Engage 2 Act was not changing with the inception of the Board. The Board were here to merely add organisation and direction to a group that was growing fast and under guidance could be an advocating voice of people in the community engagement field. We have kept our promise and membership is free. All local events where possible are kept free and through the generous support of our five advocates (Bang the Table, Max Hardy, JTA Australia, MosaicLab and Village Well) this year our (un)Conference is being kept at an affordable price of just $495 for the whole 2 days including 3 extremely talented key note speakers, an award and many opportunities to share, interact and network with your peers.
Fourth up was a membership form - collecting basic information so we can promote to you including – information, updates and events.
To date: This was also important for the Board. Whilst we knew we had a good following already we still needed to know who you were exactly and grow this magnificent bunch in to a super community engagement collective. So thats what we did.
Fifth objective was a Membership strategy. Simply we wanted to have a presence throughout the universe. Members from a diverse range of backgrounds. People at the start, middle and end of their careers. We wanted to welcome anyone with an interest in progressing best practice community engagement.
This would include:
1. In first 100 days – 350 members of the collective.
2. Follow up with contacts in states where we’d had new interest
3. Formal communication from the new Board on how to join
4. Get an (un)Conference happening
To date: Well we are pretty happy with what we have achieved here. Numbers 2, 3 and 4 have been achieved relatively quickly. NSW and Western Australia have their first local events in early July. Becky has been sending out regular communications including the new how to join information and, as you hopefully know already, information about (un)Conference 2017 which is happening this September at St Kilda Town Hall in Victoria. You may have noticed we have also expanded our social media reach to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.
When it comes to membership numbers maybe 350 was quite ambitious but safe to say we had a fair old crack at it. As I sit and write this post we sit just shy of 350 at 324 and our members stretch across the world. We count this as a massive win and thank all of you that, to date, have signed up as members as it truely is you who make Engage 2 Act.
Approach for the future:
The Board wanted to ensure our approach was right as we grew into the future. We believe all members have something to contribute and want to harness this. We wanted to see events driven by our collective who were empowered to have the freedom to self-organise, learn, share and network. For the Board we wanted to see opportunities to build potential partnerships but also maintain current friendships.
To date: The Victorian Collective are extremely strong with this. The local committee that organise E2A events are a model that we would love to see copied around Australia and New Zealand and eventually further.
For the Board this has included maintaining a healthy relationship with the IAP2A board and progressing a partnership arrangement with the Next Generation project. Through developing strong relationships we have also been able to ensure an impressive line up of key note speakers for our (un)Conference as well as been able to bring five fiercely passionate organisations on board as Advocates.
As we move forward we will continue to ensure the Board is made up of passionate people from within the community engagement sector. As we grow we will look to take on administrative support but also ensure our President is active in leading our organisation in a visible capacity.
To ensure things like this happen we have established the Board officially as a ‘not for profit’ with a bank account so that any money left over from the (un)Conference and other paid for events is reinvested in to the local groups and our own community of practice.
Ultimately we are hoping that as we follow this exciting journey of growth with you the members that our brand becomes a recognised and reputable force in the world of Community Engagement. With close to 350 members already the dream has become that when people google “community engagement”, it’s Engage 2 Act that comes out top in your search! And with the commitment of you the members we know that you can help make this happen.
Thank you for supporting the Board in the first 100 days. Here’s to the next 100!
Becky, Desley, Andrew, Amy, Eleanor, Megan, Anthony, Sandra, Clare.