There’s lots of discussion about emotion in community engagement these days.
Maybe that’s because we’ve ignored this important component for decades.
Adelaide’s independent newspaper, InDaily, recommends, following an interview with me last week, that we “consider emotion in community engagement.”
The difficulty is that in many community engagement circles, and especially among those practitioners in the “risk-aversion” category (and their colleagues and clients), emotion is seen as a negative thing, often associated with “outrage” and something to be avoided.
But emotion is not always outrage. Or outrageous. Sometimes it’s soft and sweet. Sometimes it’s passionate and daring. Sometimes it’s hopeful.
And sometimes it’s untrusting.
Emotion is only energy.
It’s natural and instinctive, like the human desire for territorial control. And if you find energy in a community engagement context, you don’t have to drum it up.
You have something — something energetic — to work with! Emotions count in community engagement
The Energy Wheel
In my work, I use a diagnostic tool called the “Energy Wheel” to assess the emotional state of people in a community, a community group or an organisation. It gives me a way of working out what’s necessary. What might work. In a “cool negative” community, for example, you might have literally to”light a fire” under people to get them going — to get them involved.
Stories in a Park in Eagleby, Queensland
We’ve done that in a now-famous project in Eagleby in southeastern Queensland. And the results were transformational!
Here is a summary of some aspects of that creative approach to community engagement and community development:
Stories in a Park final journal article 2005 Please email me for more details about the Eagleby project.
You can read more about the Energy Wheel in my book, Kitchen Table Sustainability.