Getting people to care is at the heart of civic engagement.

Technology and innovation won’t get you anywhere if people feel like they aren’t being respected. A tired constituency is one that may not even be aware of what the status quo is and your first challenge will be to bring people in from the cold.

The most successful change efforts start from within at the grassroots level. Enabling people to not only see a problem, define it, and then put together a plan to solve it is the best way to achieve long term success. Top down change that is mandated from above can make people feel even more disconnected, regardless of how well-intentioned one’s efforts may be.

People are able to connect with others in different ways. Some are inclined to keep conversations academic and others will find success, say, in talking strictly about sports. The most successful communicators are able to not only float between multiple unrelated topics, but also to make a point to listen to others. Listening demonstrates respect.

Technology and digital tools can have the effect of amplifying and projecting your voice and message. But, can it enable listening? Can it get people to listen to you?

It will be a challenge if you don’t have a compelling message as any content marketer knows. When speaking of solving basic human needs, you shouldn’t need successful messaging or a clever promotion. A demonstrated need should be enough to mobilize people to take action.

Establishing a deeper connection with another is grounded in face to face contact. It lets people know that you are real and you are there to help. Working through an interface can be helpful to start the conversation, but at some point this needs to convert to human to human contact in order for a some kind of change to occur.

Understanding what people truly need starts with creating mutual respect. Otherwise your engagement efforts will be superficial at best. When people see that others are listening and that your efforts are sincere, then they will be more inclined to care about what you are doing–and may just join you to help out.

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