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Insight #4: Open Your Circle

This is the tenth in a series of posts that will examine ten insights Community Wealth Partners has uncovered through our research of and experience with initiatives that have created transformational social change.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb

This proverb has been proven to be true again and again by our clients’ experiences as well as some of the most transformational initiatives over time. If we’re going to make real progress on solving a social problem we must ask the question: Who has a role to play in solving this problem? The answer often includes a highly disparate group of stakeholders, including those from the elite and the grassroots; representatives from the public, private and government sectors; those who affect the problem and those affected by it; and those we do and do not know. Instead, we too often ask a different, simpler question: Who do I know who can help solve this problem?  Asking who we know leads us to the usual suspects, the ones we are comfortable with. We understand the role they might play in our solution and we know how to engage and inspire them. However, in order to address our most intractable social problems, we must engage a much broader cross section of stakeholders. It is at this cross section where true innovation can occur and bold visions can be realized.

Here are a few tips on how to open your circle to engage those who have a role to play in solving the problem you are committed to solving:

1) Brainstorm a list of all stakeholders that might have a role to play. Don’t be alarmed if this list of stakeholder groups is pages long.

2) Analyze and prioritize your stakeholder groups. To better understand your stakeholder groups, consider analyzing them according to their power over and interest in the problem. If you think about this as a 2×2 matrix, you’ll have four categories of stakeholders: 1) high power, high interest; 2) high power, low interest; 3) low power, high interest; 4) low power, low interest.

3) Tailor engagement strategies, accordingly. Depending on where each stakeholder group falls and the degree to which they are supportive of what you’re doing, you’ll need to tailor your engagement strategies. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to stakeholder engagement.

4) Start with early adopters. Once you have those who are most supportive on board, you’ll begin to make progress and build momentum. The skeptics or naysayers might eventually come along, or you eventually will have to proactively approach them, if they have the power to stop you from making progress. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for further discussion and examples of opening your circle in order to solve complex social problems.

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Amy Celep

About Amy Celep

As CEO of Community Wealth Partners, Amy Celep guides the organization’s strategic direction and oversees its more than 20 employees in their efforts to support partners in solving problems at the magnitude they exist. Amy was named to this role in April 2010, and since then has led the organization in developing and implementing a new strategy for greater impact, while achieving 50 percent revenue growth and securing a marquee list of partners. See Amy's full bio

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