Tips on Citizen Engagement from the Great Garden State

March 14, 2014

Let’s Talk Contribution

Phil Buchanan’s recent opinion article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy was spot-on.  He writes about the tension between assessing a nonprofit’s solo performance (and impact) and the reality that these groups often achieve success by collaborating with others.  As he points out, nonprofits win by “sharing the work and the glory.”  In the advocacy evaluation field, we go on and on about the importance of studying a group’s contribution to social change, as opposed to attributing changes to any one organization.  Buchanan just provided another argument in support of this view.  

Jersey Dreamin’

We like this piece not just because we’re Jersey boys at heart…but because the author Sam Daley-Harris is a true apostle of citizen engagement with a pretty proud track record.  Daley-Harris argues that citizens can be empowered to convey their views effectively and to create public will to solve the big problems facing the country.  This aligns quite nicely with recent efforts like No Labels and research like PIPA’s which attempts to identify the disparity between citizen views and policymaker perceptions of citizen’s views.  Cynical Washington taking inspiration from a guy in Jersey?  Believe it.


Devotees of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In claim that it has spawned an international movement.  There’s certainly been a lot of uptake: the book’s message of standing up for yourself in a work environment dominated by “the man” (read: white men) has apparently resonated with many women and members of minority groups of both sexes.  After a year of “leaning in,” The Washington Post helps us reflect on what’s been achieved.  True, this ain’t no evaluation, but columnist Lisa Bonos begins roughing out the beginnings of some interesting learning questions—about dissemination of a message, implementation of a “circle” strategy, and coalition building with men, among others.