The Imperative for Engaging All Voices: A growing body of evidence suggests that when people are at the center of identifying their goals and aspirations and developing the plan to achieve them, they are more committed to the process and to being successful. High-impact organizations engage all voices in every aspect of their work.
To catalyze change, high-impact organizations invite, appreciate, and advocate for the viewpoints of individuals who are unrepresented or underrepresented in most community, organizational, and policy settings. They create multiple pathways through which all individuals, including staff, can provide feedback that shapes their own paths and that of the organization and broader community.
High-impact organizations also create processes and programs to develop individuals’ skills, knowledge, and confidence so they can and do advocate for themselves. Formal and informal advocacy efforts are embedded within all aspects of their work, always acting with and doing what is in the best interest of children, adults, families, and communities. Individuals and communities direct, develop, and execute advocacy and civic engagement efforts that augment and support their health, well-being, and vitality. High-impact organizations lift up the voices and challenges of those who find it difficult to advocate for themselves, and they identify conscientious community advocates to support this role.
High-impact organizations’ practices, policies, and relationships all reflect a person-centered, asset-based orientation. They move beyond a culture of compliance and participation to one of shared responsibility and empowerment by authentically engaging children, families, and communities in identifying their strengths and placing them at the center of decision making, goal setting, and progress tracking.
Engaging All Voices: Congreso de Latinos Unidos
When How We Fish, a citywide mural project run by the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, looked to engage the Latino community in a series of conversations about the value and meaning of work, it turned to Congreso de Latinos Unidos because it was confident that the organization could guide an authentic discussion.
Congreso organized a community meeting that allowed mural artists and residents to discuss the history of work in the Latino community. Many shared stories of working as children in farms and factories, coming to the U.S. in search of work, and settling or re-settling where work was available.
Following this meeting, residents were invited to bring their conversations to life by painting components of the mural. The final mural, conceptualized through the dialogue facilitated by Congreso and others throughout the city, includes images of agriculture, factories, and the word “orgullo,” the Spanish word for “pride,” which summarizes how those interviewed felt about making contributions in the workforce.