Value is a slippery thing. While the value of achieving the goal of the project may be clear, the value of the individual outcomes, or landmarks, are less clear. So who cares that people are paying more attention to a particular topic? Who cares that more people are attending events? The answer is, people care for different reasons, and that should be captured in your process. Creating a bigger Facebook following, for example, may not only have value for the project and its goals but also for government by building capacity and support for future projects. And while more creative use of social media has value for the project, it also can motivate participants to care about what they’re doing, build social networks, and make them feel more empowered to address community-wide concerns.
"The best approach is to keep landmarks flexible and understand that they may increase or decrease in value as you talk to more people and gain a deeper understanding of their motivations."
Part of what it means to effectively identify the value of a project is to consider the motivations and rewards for every person involved, from decision-makers to supporters and staff. How does arriving at a particular landmark motivate diverse participants and address their interests, especially underrepresented individuals or groups? Often, these things can’t be figured out at the beginning of a project, as stakeholders or particular value propositions will inevitably emerge throughout a project. The best approach is to keep landmarks flexible and understand that they may increase or decrease in value as you talk to more people and gain a deeper understanding of their motivations. Remember, you’re not making a logic model as there is nothing linear about a public engagement project. You should be able to add and subtract landmarks and their connections to one another throughout a project.
Things to Keep in Mind
- Clear statements of value and defined outcomes are important to manage expectations of funders and communities.
- Communicate value in public reports. This may need to include numbers and goals/outcomes for transparency.