Incentives for involvement

Chris Antonelli
Chris Antonelli
@chris-antonelli
8 years ago
1 posts

I'm working on rebuilding a Leaders Per Block program in our target area on the Westside of Chicago. The program is essentially a community group that identifies leaders throughout the community and connects them to each other, building social capital.

One of the biggest problems we've had is keeping people involved and making the organization more sustainable. In a distressed neighborhood like ours, most of our residents don't have a lot of discretionary time or income to dedicate to community development, despite excitement and desire to work with us. When it comes down to it, without some sort of direct benefit, its difficult to recruit and retain leaders.

We've been brainstorming ideas to incentivize membership and involvement. I was wondering what kind of things other organizations have done to get more sustained involvement.


updated by @chris-antonelli: 10/24/16 03:45:18PM
Ron Dwyer-Voss
Ron Dwyer-Voss
@ron-dwyer-voss
8 years ago
47 posts

"Incentivizing engagement" discussions are always spirited. Some folks say that engagement incentives are a form of coercion and shouldn't be used. Others say it is the only way to get people's attention when they are focused on survival, or their attention is already over occupied. I have done this work for 25 years I have concluded that there is no "one way" to approach this. I have learned a few things that generally hold true in most contexts.

1. All engagement is based on incentives; the incentives just vary from material to social to spiritual. I engage in something because I see a possible reward: my community will improve, I will see friends and neighbors, I will enjoy the activity, I will get paid so I can support my family, etc.

2. The strongest and most sustainable incentives are based on peoples deepest self-interest: that place where our dreams and fears combine with opportunities to contribute our gifts and/or learn and grow.

3. We can only learn about peoples deepest self-interests in conversation listening, while building a relationship.

4. People stay engaged if they are reaping rewards doing something meaningful, spending time with enjoyable people, sensing accomplishment, learning a new skill, recognition, etc.

So I think some incentives to let people know you value their time and that the activity of the group has value is a fine way to get folks to break from their routine and check out what you are doing. Try one of these:

  1. Bring a friend. When a current member brings a new person both people are entered into a raffle or prize drawing.
  2. Community currency. Participants earn currency from involvement (by activity or hour) and then can use it to buy donated prizes from local merchants or entries in a drawing.
  3. Standard raffle everyone at an event gets an entry and there is a prize each event.
  4. Proxy prizes donations made to your block, group, church, etc. based on engagement.

Let us know what you try and how it works!

vangronj
vangronj
@jay-van-groningen
8 years ago
6 posts

When a program or institution tries to get people to play roles for their program, there are often good reasons why people lose energy. You named some of them. What if you put your energies into discovering what they care about enough to act on it, then connect them to others in the neighborhood who care about the same thing...

Social capital has little value when it sits in the background. It has to be in use to have value... People act on what they care about. Joining neighbors to act on what they care about, gives them a reason to keep on...

Bill Knight
Bill Knight
@bill-knight
8 years ago
3 posts

Each alderman in Chicago gets over $1 million a year to allocate for various infrastructure improvements in his or her ward. This so-called "menu money" goes to resurface streets and alleys, repair sidewalks and curbs and gutters, put in new streetlights, and the like. See http://www.ward49.com/participatory-budgeting/

Here in New York some of us are trying to get participatory budgeting (PB) introduced into our districts (4 have PB, 4 are starting this year) believing PB provides an incentive around which to motivate, mobilize and sustain community interest, especially if tied to an ABCD process of community-driven development. Does it? Time will tell!

Do you have PB in the Ward where you live? Might people in your community come together to demand and then PB?

If you try, do let us know how you get on!

Eva R. Beau
Eva R. Beau
@eva-r-beau
8 years ago
2 posts

Excellent tips. In working and living in the community I can definitely relate to how some of the incentives in your reply would encourage participation and possibly sustained involvement. I will most certainly incorporate some of them into my outreach plan.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Eva Beau, Community Outreach Specialist

Norwalk Community Health Center

Eva R. Beau
Eva R. Beau
@eva-r-beau
8 years ago
2 posts

Hey Chris, this is a very good question and I'd really like to find an answer as well. I have a similar challenge in that I work with residents in public housing. I coordinate meetings and public forums and very few show up, sometimes none at all?!?! I sometimes offer a light dinner or refreshments and that brings a handful of residents out? I facilitated a few focus groups this year and theincentive were $25food cards. I did have a good turn out. Unfortunately these were one time offers. I understand your question was geared more toward ideas that can help with sustained involvement.Can someone help the both of us? I beleive Mr. Dwyer-Vossoffered great advice.

vangronj
vangronj
@jay-van-groningen
8 years ago
6 posts

In Springfield, a colleague (Eric Smith with Springfield Promise) working in the context of a neighborhood grade school, invited parents from a particular neighborhood to apply for community connector roles:

1. They would get $100 to complete a training on how host conversations with their neighbors

2. They would get an additional $150 if they successfully hosted 5 events with neighbors that had 3 or more neighbors participating. And during these events they had would talk about life in the neighborhood, what was good, strong, and what would make it even better.

3. One person from each of the conversations was expected to (and did) participate in a community wide planning event (world cafe style) where the outputs of the conversations were shared with the community. Together they prioritized 6 things they wanted to work on.

4. Residents each walked to the 1 thing (posted around the room) they had most passion to work on with their neighbors. 6 working groups were formed that night and all worked hard and successfully after the meeting with minimal support from my colleague.

Incentives can be a blessing to get things rolling, and it need not cost a lot.

Sharon Younkin
Sharon Younkin
@sharon-younkin
8 years ago
1 posts

we've offered meals, childcare, gift cards, leadership opportunities and small gifts connected to program content

Anne Timms
Anne Timms
@anne-timms
7 years ago
1 posts

Thank you for the valuable question and the replies. I can use this advise in our South African communities too.

Om Dhungel
Om Dhungel
@om-dhungel
4 days ago
2 posts

Thanks for the very useful and practical suggestions. This is a very important part of ABCD practice and love to keep the conversation alive. 

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