by Jessica Delaney, Principal, Engagement + Strategic Communications
This is a bit of a thing for me. If you are at an engagement event, you have a role. You might be the facilitator, notetaker, a subject matter expert, or a participant. You have a role, a purpose, a function. Engagement is not research, and community members, people with lived experience, staff, or any other participants are not “subjects” to be observed. A lookie loo is defined as “an intrusively curious onlooker” and they are often found in engagement. The mere presence of someone in an engagement session to observe, changes the conversation. When people know there is someone there “just observing” or “just listening”, it changes the space, and in my opinion, makes it less of a safe space. So, if you find yourself asking to be an observer, or wanting to send your staff to observe, just know that it will change the nature of what would have otherwise been shared. Instead, you can read the report afterwards or you can get a debrief by the facilitator. I would encourage would-be lookie loos to exert some emotional intelligence to know when they should pass on attending engagement sessions.
Here are three questions to reflect on:
- How might my presence influence the dialogue?
- Is there a way I can understand what was shared without being there?
- Is there a way I can positively contribute to the process beyond “observing” it?
I am curious on the thoughts and experiences of others and how you manage the number and role of participants in an engagement session.
Engagingly yours, Jessica