From the Blog

Do Less, Do More: Strategies for Equitable Community Engagement

by Moises Nuñez and Glennys Sánchez 

Mo and Glennys picture

Equitable community engagement—an ongoing and intentional process of building trusting relationships, sharing power, and working collaboratively with all stakeholders toward educational equity—can seem overwhelming at first. When it comes to rethinking a decades-old status quo, it’s hard to know where to begin. Or maybe you’ve been working hard on engaging families, students, and staff and have been frustrated by the results. 

The good news: School leaders can pave the way to systems change by considering their own leadership practices and habits. 

The shifts below can help you model equitable community engagement, which can set the stage for broader, systemic work in your schools and district. These low-cost, high-impact changes in behavior are an invitation—not to put more on your plate, but rather to consider replacing defaults with more inclusive and reflective patterns and practices. Even if you select just one thing to focus on from the list below, you’ll be on your way to developing a more equitable and engaging school community. 

Do Less

Do More

1. “Why don’t they ever come to things?”

“How can we involve them in developing activities?”

2. Emailing

Face-to-face conversations

3. Explaining why

Asking why

4. Relying on the same folks

Connecting with the outliers

5. Designing and facilitating all the meetings

Building others’ capacity to lead

6. Making assumptions

Looking for your potential blind spots

7. Hosting events at school

Hosting events in the community

8. Marketing and public relations

Inviting personal stories

9. Looking for a quick fix or clear resolution

Sitting in the discomfort

10. Setting the agenda

Finding out what’s important to others

11. Waiting to share something until it’s a finished product

Bringing others in to design, refine, and communicate about a work-in-progress

12. Chalking up someone’s struggles to a lack of personal responsibility

Considering how systems have shaped people’s opportunities and perspectives

13. Getting everyone “on board”

Embracing and exploring disagreement

14.Having all the answers

“I don’t know” or “I’m still learning”

15. Collecting and analyzing survey data behind closed doors

Sharing and making meaning of data with the people surveyed