By Juliana McMillan-Wilhoit

Connecting with your constituents is the lifeblood of effective public service. Yet fostering true civic engagement often proves elusive despite the best intentions. Meeting announcements go unnoticed, ambitious initiatives flounder, and apathy lingers.

If this sounds familiar, there is another option. The path to authentic community ties lies in understanding your residents’ core motivations and communicating with them. When molded into compelling narratives, this hard-won insight can transform outreach from going through the motions to fostering genuine participation.

You don’t have to do your community engagement alone…

At F&T Labs, we are passionate about reigniting meaningful connections between governments and citizens. We have equipped public officials with proven frameworks to grasp what their communities truly care about. We serve as a guide to local governments as they consider how to engage their communities. Our Empathy-Driven Engagement workshop leverages empathy mapping & storytelling to resonate with your constituents. In our one-day workshop, local government teams can radically change how they engage with their citizens.

The results speak for themselves – from record-breaking engagement in an Illinois city to successful policy rollouts at a county level. Read on to discover how our customized approach can help you finally realize your vision of collaborative, insightful public service rooted in your community’s priorities.

Yet despite best intentions, the reality often falls short. Meeting announcements go ignored, ambitious policies flop, and entrenched apathy persists. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Many well-meaning officials face hurdles in fostering true civic engagement.

The challenges you have in your engagement can be overcome.

The key lies in a multi-pronged approach which are covered in our Empathy-Driven Engagement Workshop:

  1. First, you need a deep understanding of what matters most to your community. Empathy mapping reveals your constituents’ core priorities, motivations, and pain points.
  2. You need to craft messages using a proven storytelling framework that transforms empathy insights into resonating narratives. This framework structures your organization’s mission and vision into compelling story arcs.
  3. You need to test these messages with real constituents and refine them based on feedback. An engaging story is just the starting point. To truly land, it must be continually optimized based on how well it engages your community. The workshop covers how to test your messages to see if they are resonating and how to adapt your messages.

This three-step process of empathy mapping, strategic storytelling, and testing enables tailored outreach that finally resonates. Obstacles melt away when you grasp what your community cares about, speak to those needs, and continually refine the story.

Empathy Mapping: The Foundation of Authentic Engagement

Empathy mapping is the critical first step in our Empathy-Driven Engagement workshop. This innovative framework provides a powerful lens into your constituents’ core perspectives and priorities.

With roots in user experience design, empathy mapping rejects ineffective guesswork in favor of evidence-based insights. It moves beyond assumptions to reveal what your community authentically thinks, feels, says, does, hears and sees.

Our workshop equips you with specific techniques to understand your community & stakeholders. Then our workshop goes beyond understanding to apply these insights and think about questions of what someone thinks, feels, says, and does.

These proven methods enable you to examine your constituents’ mindsets, opinions, perceived wins/losses, external narratives, vocabulary, and actions holistically. The end result is a data-rich perspective indispensable for tailoring services and outreach.

Too often, public engagement relies on recycled one-size-fits-all programs that fail to resonate locally. Our emphasis on empathy mapping ensures you can craft initiatives attuned to your community’s unique needs and priorities.

The journey to authentic engagement begins with understanding the people you serve. Join us to discover proven empathy mapping strategies, hands-on practice, and how these insights pave the way for compelling messaging and continual optimization. Let’s start building the foundation today.

Empathy Mapping for local government

The Art and Science of Strategic Storytelling

Armed with empathy mapping insights, we guide you to the next crucial step: transforming findings into genuinely resonating strategic narratives.

We utilize a proven storytelling framework rooted in timeless narrative patterns that resonate universally. Our methodology taps into the classic story architecture underpinning myths, folk tales, and blockbuster films.

This structure lends coherence, emotion, and direction to messaging. We tie your mission and vision to story elements that speak to your residents’ minds and hearts. Dry factual statements become treasured tales.

At a high level, this storytelling framework guides you to introduce a compelling character your audience can relate to, outline a struggle or challenge they face, present your organization as equipped with the knowledge to overcome this, lay out an easy-to-grasp plan of action, inspire urgency around participation, and paint a vivid picture of success. While this may sound simplistic, extensive research shows that messaging structured around these classic narrative elements taps into universal resonance patterns. By leveraging the tried-and-true conventions of heroic tales, we craft messages with the power to engage hearts and minds truly.

Unlike scattered facts, stories are memorable and relatable. Leveraging classic conventions like heroes overcoming obstacles creates visceral resonance. It equips you to inspire imagination and motivate action.

Our framework helps crystallize your narrative into an easy-to-grasp yet profound arc. We focus on maximizing clarity and connection, enabling constituents to visualize your goals as their own. The result is authentic engagement.

Our Holistic Approach: Empathy Mapping, Storytelling, and Optimization

Our intensive 1-day workshop provides a holistic approach to community engagement:

  1. We guide you through proven empathy mapping methods to uncover your residents’ core thoughts, feelings, and priorities. You’ll learn techniques like surveys, interviews, and focus groups to gather rich insights.
  2. We equip you with a strategic storytelling framework to craft narratives that resonate with what your community cares about. Following a step-by-step structure, you’ll learn to shape inspiring mission and vision-driven stories.
  3. We teach real-world testing mechanisms to refine your messaging continually. You’ll gain skills to solicit feedback through focus groups, social media, and surveys to optimize engagement.

This three-pronged approach enables you to start with deep community insights, transform them into compelling stories, and continually improve those stories based on real constituent responses. The end result is tailored outreach that fosters true civic participation.

Reignite Community Ties

Imagine the impact of rolling out a new program after studying pain points in empathy mapping surveys. Messaging incorporates focus group feedback to address confusion. The result is enthusiastic participation reflecting genuine resonance.

Or envision realizing your dream forum where citizens shape plans. You’ve uncovered their priorities through interviews. Your agenda focuses on what matters most to them. Attendance exceeds expectations.

Outcomes like these are possible when outreach stems from true community understanding. That’s the transformative power of empathy mapping.

For example, imagine conducting interviews using empathy mapping techniques that reveal infrastructure frustrations as a top community priority. You could then craft a story focused on the crumbling infrastructure as the central problem to be solved. Your city council is positioned as the guide with a plan to repair roads and bridges. You call on citizens to attend town halls and provide feedback on the plan. You highlight the failure of continuing deterioration. And thanks to community involvement, you paint a vision of success with smooth roads and safe bridges.

Our Workshop in Practice

We recently had the privilege of partnering with a large forest preserve district foundation that was launching a capital campaign to fund critical conservation efforts. While they had a bold vision, the initial messaging was not resonating with donors.

Through a series of workshops, we worked with the Foundation to uncover who their donors were and what motivated them to give. We identified their hero character as caring deeply about conservation and preservation. We defined the problem as declining wildlife habitats and ecological damage.

Then we utilized our proven storytelling framework to craft an effective narrative. Following the classic story arc, we positioned the Foundation as the guide who could equip donors with a plan to address the problem through legacy gifts. This plan laid out simple steps donors could take to structure gifts through their estate that would fund conservation for generations.

The story concluded by calling donors to action with clear options for planned giving. It highlighted the failure to lose natural areas forever without action. And it painted a picture of success where habits were revitalized through donors’ gifts.

Armed with these empathy-based stories focused on stewardship, legacy, and community benefit, the response was tremendous. Donations surpassed campaign goals within weeks. The preserve was so impressed they extended our engagement.

This example highlights the power of empathy mapping combined with strategic storytelling. Understanding donors and crafting narratives tailored to their perspectives helped create true connection and engagement.

Jefferson McMillan-Wilhoit leads our empathy-Driven Engagement workshop

Let’s Tailor a Workshop to Your Needs

Even better, our workshops are completely customized. We’ll work with you beforehand to understand your goals and tailor the curriculum and interactive scenarios.

If lackluster attention spans hinder your outreach, the time for change is now. Let’s talk about designing an experience tailored to your community. We’ll help you reignite civic ties and confidence in leadership.

Don’t settle for just going through the motions. Let’s embark on authentic engagement – your constituents are ready! Reach out today to get started. Below is an example schedule for one of our Empathy-Driven Engagement Workshop.

9:00-9:15 a.m.Welcome & Introduction
Overview of the day’s agenda and objectives.
9:15-10:30 a.m.Empathy Mapping: Part 1
Introduction to empathy mapping and its importance in community engagement.
10:30-10:45 a.m.Coffee Break
Short break for refreshments.
10:45-12:00 p.m.Empathy Mapping: Part 2
Hands-on practice with techniques like surveys, interviews, and focus groups.
12:00-1:00 p.m.Lunch Break
One-hour break for lunch.
1:00-2:15 p.m.Strategic Storytelling: Part 1
Introduction to the storytelling framework and its application in crafting compelling narratives.
2:15-3:30 p.m.Strategic Storytelling: Part 2
Workshop participants craft their own stories based on empathy mapping insights.
3:30-3:45 p.m.Coffee Break
Short break for refreshments.
3:45-5:00 p.m.Optimization & Testing
Introduction to real-world testing mechanisms like focus groups and social media surveys. Discussion on how to refine and adapt messages.

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