Empathy: the main ingredient in effective community engagement

Louise Greenstock, PhD

PhD

Researcher, Evaluator, Speaker, Facilitator, Coach, Mentor, Teacher, Trainer & Poet.

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Empathy…

This is what connects us as human beings.  The capacity to be able to relate to another person’s experience. We are loving beings who want to connect with other loving beings.

These days everyone seems to be talking about community engagement, consumer engagement, user experience …

In community health, the focus is on developing programs and services that are informed by the voices of the community.

So what enables and motivates people to engage?

  • Feeling safe
  • Feeling respected
  • Feeling heard
  • Feeling understood
  • Feeling honoured
  • A meaningful reward or pay-off that actually matters


These are the things I want and need in order to engage, and I am a community member and consumer, just like anyone else.

It is essential to ask ourselves what the people we are seeking to engage are going to get out of the process and to check our transparency and follow-through at every turn.

The best approach is to simply talk and connect human to human. Find the empathy. Not in a contrived way, people will sense that anyway. See the person. Remember that communities are simply groups of human beings.

There have been times where I have over-complicated community engagement. But empathy and human relating is not complicated. It is simple.

The best and only way is to develop authentic relationships of trust, grounded in our deepest integrity.

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