How can we create dynamic public conversations (in person and online) that engage people through art/data/storytelling/journalism

Session Host: jesikah maria ross
Session Reporters: Celeste Hamilton Dennis & Melia Tichenor

Participants:
Desiree Gutierez
Wendy Willis
Jacob Caggiano
Elaine Cha
Levander Voo
Michal Wilder
Melia Tichenor
Celeste Hamilton Dennis
jesikah maria ross

Question: How do we create in-person and online public convo events that combine art/data/storytelling?

One thing people want to walk away with:

  • How to use art to engage?
  • How to make engagement feel empowering and less like a chore or friction?
  • How to access other positive emotions without using outreach?
  • How do we measure engagement in the digital engagement space?

What have you done or observed that has worked? What strategies and tips are effective?

Desiree – Strategy observed when convening people who don’t necessarily know each other but awkwardness of breaking the ice. Ask a broad question that has four possible answers. Event with Troop 1500 and they’ll go visit their moms in jail. To break the ice, ask people to identify their favorite girl scout cookie and go to section of room. People have to get up out of seats, introduce to one another. After the film and other activity when it comes time to be engaged they already know each other.

Celeste – Cash mob for struggling stationery store owner in Levittown, New York. Seeded plants of Mystery, fun, surprise.

Michal – Around Jewish holiday of Purim school organizes carnival students come up with ideas for community service projects. Gift baskets for people, danced with elderly in homes – tapped into existing traditions.

Elaine – Had event space that was our own. Worked with talk shows. New biography that had come out on James Brown. Person who wrote book was music journalist. Rather than have book event with moderator on stage but had music contributor who was also a DJ/Professor moderate. Brought in drum kit. Had three of them talk with each other, drummer played sound breaks. Not just way to talk about James Brown but look at social history. People of all ages there. Also showed footage of concert. Sold a lot of books that day. Very diverse group as well. Really fun event. And it was free.

jesikah – Free event, music when people came in, food and flowers on tables. Pop up art exhibition. In beautiful hall. Visual and sound when came in. Played two-minute stories of people grappling with hunger. Four lightning responses. People at table would talk about how that affected them personally and professionally. Art at table to engage. Strategies notice that worked well was that it moved along quickly. All those together made it more energizing and different than regular public convo.

Melia – Theatre piece How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes. Theatre crowd used to patronize theatre partnered with 20 nonprofits dealing with poverty in the community. Actors would do vignettes about what different issues would look like, and orgs answered snippets about what they did to address poverty. Everyone was invited to participate using post-it notes – dotmacracy – questions unsure not have a meal, unemployed. See not all privileged theatre goers, people in room still experiencing poverty. Two worlds who didn’t interact but did. Learning station and stats on wall and Googlers. Game show style to donate money to. Every night one strategy is chosen. Everyone left with pamphlet with org that participated profiled. A lot of cool dialogue around which strategy need to choose.

Elaine – One of benefits of dotmacracy is have to be discreet with questions but in satisfying way. Opens up potential for convo. After event told people about which dots they choose, way to keep people engaged.

Kaylee – What’s the goal for longer follow-up? How do we go from event to next step?

Meghann – Surveyed people before event and then after we held a theatre presentation. How much info they retained? Would share email and phone? Follow up with them. What we haven’t figured out is what else different can we do than email? Give people opp to hear if this impactful to them. Bandwidth question – have to decide whether to source this out to larger community.

jesikah – Created info zones and kiosks. If you got jazzed about food pantry, go here. Asked them to have three things on handbill to take away. Not say take action, there are opps to learn more. Not fiscal partners.

How can we use art to engage people at these events?

Elaine – Sometimes when it comes to engagement of outreach team, sometimes we plan with only diverse communities in mind. Case for trying to engage people from everywhere. Power of art comes in. Don’t have to identify one kind of driving community. “Here’s a young people’s event.” Bullshit. Can’t think of millennials as being a commodity. Folks hearing each other will engage on their own. Don’t have to control engagement.

Meghann – There is room for certain audiences. Youth, who don’t get a chance to speak. They run it, adults don’t control it. To them, from them. Hey, we want to empower you to do this thing. Authentic, creates space where they can own it. How do we empower? Kind of weird because it’s for them.

Kaylee – When you’re trying to reach out to marginalized communities it’s not like we created a space, come on in! But people involved in the process in every stage of that.

Meghann – We’re such owners. But there’s a million orgs working with young people. Come into event in a way that’s respectful. Already stuff going on.

Elaine – Go to where they are.

Desiree – Detroit SOUP. $5 dinner in a space in the community, people present four projects, low barrier to access.

jesikah – Better understanding, make face-to-face connections.

Elaine- Sloup. Wonder to extent these gatherings bring together like-minded individuals of similar socio-economic backgrounds, give to whoever pitch this idea. Those who help and those who receive help.

Desiree – Comes down to authenticity. Who’s being brought into the room, who’s presenting.

Jacob – Speaking out requires courage. Chance of having meaningful impact more than chance of backlash. Risk scenario. Fast in head. Want to maintain status quo. Liability calculation. Safe space. If you’re finding a way to elevate emotions it doesn’t have to be so aggressive. People have legitimate reason for being upset. Don’t want to hamper rage. People who make decisions don’t show up to those things. Empty echo chamber. Don’t know what motivates people in power to make decisions.

Wendy – Worked with journalists to plan event Candidates Gone Wild. Journalists + City Club of Portland, Bus Project. Whole idea was to destabilize power between candidates and people. Designed to get at how candidates feel. Game shows, video clips of poems,
People watched on TV and theatre. Way for decision makers to reveal something in way that’s not shaming. Ground rules among planners if go for it on someone needs to be around their position on something not something that’s intrinsic to them, their person. Cat steps to bed, one candidate. Human governance.

Lee – House not clean. Get at truths of who people really are. Incredible event.

Elaine – People afraid of speaking up, make sure not going to them for one time. Journalism one time or twice so people feel like not commitment to community. Ways to think about cumulative communication. Accountability, innovation. Creating more than one opportunity to voice thoughts. Multi channel.

Desiree – Anonymously express self without fear of backlash. Problematic in digital space, trolling happens. Maybe one of only ways people can feel comfortable.

jesikah – Has anyone used Facebook groups to engaged and involve people that has worked well?

Lee – Embedded in Facebook group, made comments while reporting. Direct engagement with audience. Had an event with band, launch party with org, rolled out story in slideshow. More social media engagement cutting newspapers and radio out of equation, doing it just with people with cell phones. Don’t want to overuse it, has limitations. Clear I’m a reporter. Almost like a Reddit. Black Portlanders is becoming a meme.

Michal – Humans of New York page conversation in comments section, actual convos happen. More orgs could utilize that method.

Jacob – Self-generating theme or idea. Bangladesh project

Elaine – Facebook. So much emphasis on quantitative the qualitative gets overlooked. Making qualitative measurement as much as part of convo it’s a huge victory.