5 Steps to Effective Community Building

17 March 2015

‘Collaboration’, ‘innovation’ and ‘community-building’ sound great in theory, but often we struggle to understand how we can put them into practice. Pick up five tips from visiting community builder Milenko Matanovic.

When organisations are trying to understand  their role in the community, they usually engage with key external stakeholders – such as suppliers, community leaders and government. 

Yet if you’re trying to get consensus from these diverse groups about where your focus as an organisation should lie, it can be a very tricky process, and one that can potentially harm your company’s reputation.

Recently SBN’s Julia Jackson was invited by NZI and Beacon Pathway to attend a breakfast discussion with Milenko Matanovic, a ‘recovering-artist’-come-community-builder from Washington State, USA, who uses his artistic talents to address complex systemic issues. 

Here are his top tips for positive community engagement with great outcomes:

  1. Learn how to be collaborative and improvisational. The future is going to be more like a jazz band than a classical orchestra. We need to learn how to create and listen at the same time – like jazz musicians do.
  2. Start small. Achieve some positive wins first to gain trust and commitment to your longer term vision, and then start to look at the big long term possibilities.
  3. Transform differences into gifts. Arguing over the differences among us wastes time, money, resources, goodwill and talent. Exchange ideas with others for greater insights and more inclusive and creative solutions.
  4. Consider your own internal contradictions first before blaming others that might be in a meeting with you. We can’t come up with solutions by waiting for others to change THEIR behaviour — especially when OUR behaviour may also be part of the problem. Let’s assume we’ve all had a hand in creating the problem; now let’s join together to come up with a solution.
  5. Find a neutral facilitator. This is key to holding the common space that must exist when diverse groups come together. Facilitators need to ensure that different people’s insights contribute to, rather than extinguish, each other.

For more information about Milenko and his organisation, visit the Pomegranate Center website.

Find out more about SBN’s transformation area on Community.