Navigating the Fog of (Culture) War – Part 2

Approximate Read Time: 4 minutes

Last week, in Navigating the Fog of (Culture) War – Part 1, we ended with an introduction to Inquiry Engagement. Inquiry Engagement prioritizes listening and hearing from people before we start our campaigning. Through Inquiry Engagement we can catch glimpses of the controversies that could lie ahead and then create a plan for addressing potential conflicts.

As long as we are trying to navigate in the fog of culture war, we need to prioritize Inquiry Engagement over Campaign Engagement. This doesn’t mean we don’t campaign for the change we are trying to bring about, but that inquiry is an integral aspect of our campaign. We inquire first to learn all we can in order to anticipate the challenges and prepare for the possible controversy or conflict that could emerge.

Three Advantages

There are three clear advantages to Inquiry Engagement.

  • First, it helps us avoid getting caught by surprise when controversy arises.
  • Second, it helps us become wiser and more strategic about how we work toward the change we hope to see.
  • Third, it can reduce the risk of working at cross-purposes in the community or organization which can negatively impact your support.

Here’s an example of these advantages from the world of teen pregnancy prevention, which we know well.

Your organization has just received a grant to provide teen pregnancy prevention programming to local schools. You know community engagement is important for garnering support, but you don’t really know how the community feels about the issue. You wisely decide to begin with Inquiry Engagement.

You meet with individual community members throughout the service area and host listening sessions for groups of teachers, administrators, parents, youth, and interested community members. To be clear, this isn’t a formal needs assessment; it is only a conversation. It is a conversation that helps you understand not just the needs but the wants and tolerance (will) of the community. These listening sessions are structured so you only inquire about how participants think and feel about teen pregnancy in their community. You use open-ended questions, thoughtfully ask appropriate follow-up questions when you don’t understand something, and you listen.

In the process you learn there is less support than you hoped. There are other issues that seem more pressing to the community. You also learn there is potential for some fierce and committed opposition to your program if it includes instructions on condom usage. What you hear and learn leads you to rethink the programming you had been considering because it is too narrowly focused on prevention techniques. Alternatively, you are now looking into programs that provide sexual health information but within a positive youth development approach.

Planning for the Unthinkable: a critical task

Planning for the unthinkable is a critical task for any change maker. Something is always going to go differently than planned. In some cases, it will be a serendipitous discovery or a positive difference. In other cases, it can be a challenge that can threaten to derail even the best efforts. Campaign Engagement attempts to influence people to join our cause and it has its place. Inquiry Engagement attempts to understand more clearly what the community or organization needs and wants, as well as how much change it can tolerate for now. This understanding helps us refine our planning, see where controversy and conflict can appear, and lays a solid road for Campaign Engagement to travel.

Our Next Online Seminar – April 19

All seats complimentary!

Preparing for Controversy in the Fog of (Culture) War

Wednesday, April 19

4:00 PM Eastern

Ready to work with us?

Check out our Consultation, Workshop, and Training page on our website where you can learn about our core offerings and services. On the first page of that section, we offer some questions to help you think through what you need and how we can help. We also have an attractive PDF version of this section you can download, print, and share with others on your team or in your organization. Now, how can we help you create greater good in your community or organization? Use our button below to set up a time to talk – no cost, no obligation.

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