Even for the most passionate advocates, it can be extremely challenging to convince community leaders to take a stand on a particular issue or program. But recently, we’ve seen how innovative engagement techniques can work to educate previously uninvolved leaders—and help transform them into strong, committed supporters.

Several years ago, The Improve Group helped to organize a dynamic, day-long summit designed to engage a new group of North Dakota leaders in the fight against sexual and domestic violence. Planning the “It’s Everybody’s Business: Summit to Prevent Domestic and Sexual Violence” became an important part of our longstanding efforts to strengthen local and statewide coalitions working to implement primary prevention programs. And ultimately the summit encouraged a diverse group of leaders—from policymakers and academics to business executives and members of the media—to take a stand against sexual and domestic violence.

In a new article in the journal Sexual Assault Report, The Improve Group’s Jennifer Obinna and the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center’s Kathy Smith describe how the summit successfully expanded the number of community leaders who see sexual and domestic violence as “their” issue:

  • Summit planners used innovative communications and community engagement tools—like a video-based invitation highlighting the prevalence of sexual and domestic violence in North Dakota—to educate potential attendees about the urgent need for effective primary prevention programs.
  • The summit itself included presentations from an extremely diverse range of stakeholders, including survivors themselves, that demonstrated how every single person, regardless of their role or position, can work to prevent violence.
  • Summit participants were asked to take action—and their willingness to get involved was measured in real-time. And at the end of the conference, nearly every attendee said they were prepared to commit at least two hours each month to supporting primary prevention in their community.

Following the summit, community leaders stuck to their word. A group of 35 new advocates came together to form a committee focused entirely on violence prevention. Together they created a roadmap that now guides much of the community’s work around sexual and domestic violence—and they continue to educate others about the critical importance of prevention. Indeed, the summit served as a powerful engagement tool—one that has helped many community leaders understand that sexual and domestic violence is, in fact, everyone’s business.

Read the complete article here: “’It’s Everybody’s Business:’ Engaging Community Leaders

Sexual Assault Report is devoted to innovative programs, legal developments, and current services and research for those protecting, assisting, counseling, and treating victims of sexual assault. For more information or to subscribe, visit http://www.civicresearchinstitute.com/sar.html.