Defining Community Engagement in its Many Forms
by Shelby Pauka
Although I did not realize it at the time, I saw various forms of community engagement everyday through my family members’ work. I witnessed communit engagement as my mom listened to teachers’ questions and concerns at a nonprofit early childhood education center and while my sister held conferences with parents, administrators and therapists as a special education teacher. Community engagement can be seen almost anywhere. To me, community engagement means determining the needs of a community through asking questions and inviting participation to address those matters collaboratively, as opposed to making decisions about communities without input.
One of my recent experiences with community engagement included 150 of my peers in a professional business fraternity at the University of Colorado Boulder. I was on the executive team helping to make decisions about the event and participation requirements for our chapter. As our team discussed the issue, we realized that we did not want to make decisions that effected every member of the fraternity without consulting the members and hearing their perspective. This offered our team invaluable insight into our members’ interests and participation capacities, ultimately resulting in a solution that satisfied both the executive team and the members. Community engagement is both about talking to people and more importantly, listening.
This is one of the reasons I chose the Fellowship program. It is remarkable to me that Fellows have the opportunity to contribute to El Pomar’s work on almost every level, including community engagement through the Regional Partnerships program. I appreciate how the Foundation trusts Fellows to be good stewards of its relationships with regions in order to facilitate conversations about local problems and collaborate on viable long-term solutions. The Foundation invests not only in Fellows’ professional but also personal growth, which is returned when Fellows leave the Foundation and continue community engagement work in every sector. I look forward to participating in the Foundation’s community engagement efforts over the course of my Fellowship and applying these skills in the years beyond.
Shelby Pauka joined El Pomar Foundation as a member of the 2019 Fellowship class. As a Fellow, Shelby works with the Police Foundation of Colorado Springs, Awards for Excellence, the Karl E. Eitel Fund, and the Sally Beck Fund. She also supports the Southeast region. Read more about shelby here.