Doug Borwick on Community vs. Audience Engagement in Cleveland

Below is an excerpt of a post on Doug Borwick’s excellent blog Engaging Matters in reaction to our Stories from Cleveland: Audio Postcards.

Last week, Karina Mangu-Ward from EmcArts contacted me asking if I would review their Audio Postcards featuring the audience engagement efforts of arts organizations in Cleveland. Harried though I was in preparing for the trip, I agreed to do so as soon as time allowed. I’m glad I did.

Watching those short descriptions of the work of 12 organizations helped clarify for me some of the issues I have had around the word engagement. In the recent past, I have written several times here about audience development, audience engagement, and community engagement. And at least some commenters have taken me to task about the words and phrases used.

Let’s acknowledge that many of us (most especially me) have deeply held convictions about what these words mean or, more accurately, should mean. There is also an issue about how they are understood outside of the world of professional marketers and community engagement activists. That’s a subject for another post.

Listening to EmcArts’ capsule videos helped capture for me an important distinction between audience engagement and community engagement. Simply put, the former maintains the arts organization at the center of the process. The latter puts community improvement at the center with the arts and the community as partners working toward that end. For me, audience engagement is outreach; its end result is more attendees: expanded “reach.” Community engagement is focused on developing partnerships, deep ones; its end result is trust and understanding from which expanded reach can be pursued.

Read the full post here.

Karina Mangu-Ward is the former Director of Strategic Initiatives at EmcArts.