WHAT IS COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT?
– Public Broadcasting Act, 1967
Congress understood, nearly half a century ago, that public media could foster productive civic engagement, and could enlighten and empower communities.
Illinois Public Media is just one of hundreds of local stations that engage with community non-profits, civic leaders, faith-based group and others to address community issues.
In public media, we use the phrase “community engagement” to encapsulate a strategic mindset oriented toward the community. For hundreds of local public television and radio stations, community engagement is about continually convening, connecting and collaborating to discover, understand, and address community needs and aspirations.
From a producer’s perspective, content provides the focus for this engagement, with compelling stories that spark dialogue, invite reflection and catalyze action. While public media is not the appropriate venue for activism, it is the place to raise awareness, change attitudes and inspire new behaviors. For a local station, your program can provide the kickoff for a new initiative, or part of an ongoing, multi-year effort.
There are myriad ways for you to engage audiences, and to sustain that engagement over time:
The best engagement projects reflect thoughtful consideration of issues, audiences, alliances and, most importantly, outcomes. You will need to know why a problem or opportunity matters, who else agrees with that perspective, who will benefit from engaging with your content, and what you want to happen when they do engage. It will be important to create opportunities for interaction that map realistically to the way people use media and to the way they relate to each other in person. While it’s simpler and possibly more appealing to imagine a family gathered in front of a glowing TV set, eating popcorn and enjoying every minute of your program, the reality is more complex. If you want to affect the way people think, believe and act, you must engage them across platforms, in different settings and over time. This Engagement Guide for Producers is designed to help you with that process.
Like media itself, engagement is a dynamic field. Here are some recent ideas, trends and projects.