Friends, I am delighted to release a report that captures lessons learned by a handful of professional organizations as they work to engage the public.

I am releasing the report only through my email list. In order to download the report from this page, you need a password that I will email to you. (Sign up for my list here to get the password.)

This report is based on a joint learning agreement with the Kettering Foundation, an independent, nonpartisan research organization. I thank them for allowing me to publish this work.

It’s called:

Working Well With Others:
Five Things Organizations Learn When Engaging The Public

From the executive summary:

More and more organizations say it’s difficult for them to fulfill their missions working on their own. These organizations say they need to work in a complementary way with others. In many cases, the “others” are the public.

This approach is being taken by a striking variety of professional organizations and associations, some that are ordinarily seen as quite hard-nosed.

For these organizations, this isn’t a luxury or a change of heart that is impelling them to some new civic duty. It is a very practical response to a very practical problem. We can’t get our work done as well as we would like, say these organizations, so we are looking at ways of going about it with the public.

This report highlights five themes that emerge when nonprofits start to engage the public:

  1. Working with the public — rather than seeing them as consumers or sources of input — can make an organization’s work “more real and credible.”
  2. Working with the public is, for some organizations, an effective response to setbacks and challenges.
  3. Some organizations learn to their dismay that simply engaging the public does not result in progress. The required structures, habits and norms are not there.
  4. Organizations who choose to work with the public go one of two ways — but sometimes both. They mount engagement projects, or they try to foster an internal sensibility of engagement.
  5. Organizations are learning the power of giving a “public name” and “frame” to issues.

This is my first experiment with this new method of releasing reports. I encourage people to share the report and pass it along, but I will be only giving out the password through my email list.

If you have a colleague whom you think would appreciate being on my list, just have them drop me a note or sign up at my web site. It’s easy and I only send one or two emails per week.