Community Engagement and Powerful Questions

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Last week, I attended a community engagement workshop in Webster, SD hosted by Dakota Resources. At this two-day learning workshop, myself and my economic development peers, learned about how to get the community involved in projects and how to ask the powerful questions that need to be asked. We heard three case studies from Webster, Rosyln, and Bristol and what’s working in those communities. We walked thru the process of the World Café and how to start up group conversations that make a difference. We took a tour of Webster and Rosyln and talked to their leaders.

community engagement workshopMy favorite part of the two-day workshop was the piece on powerful questions. What is a powerful question? Powerful questions are a reflection of committed listening and understanding the other person's perspective that is confirmed through paraphrasing. Powerful questions are also open-ended questions with no hidden agenda. I learned to be careful in using a few danger words that include; can, should, why, and can’t. Instead use the magic words like; how might we or how could we.

Before we can craft a powerful question, we need to remember that we need to be a “Not Knower.” What is a not knower? As a leader in the community, I sometimes feel like I have to have all of the answers. This two-day workshop taught me that is far from the case and instead I need to be a not knower. A not knower is someone who builds a practice of building questions. Questions with curiosity and NOT judgment. Curiosity and judgment can’t live in the same space. Powerful leaders ask the right questions and it’s not about knowing all of the answers but the right questions.

So how does this help Hand County? So instead of asking someone, “Why can’t you agree with me and support this project?” Try this: “How do we get this project to a yes?” Or “Why did you do it this way?” Try this: “Help me understand the history behind your project?” By eliminating the why and can’t and replace it with a how and get, we are taking the judgment out of the question. We aren’t trigging a defense but opening the opportunity to explore new ideas for a project instead of just shooting it down. Do you think we might have more people involved in our community if we take out the judgement and listen with curiosity? Would more powerful questions help projects move forward?

I’m going to end this article with one powerful question for you and I want you to really think about this… How might On Hand Development get you involved in Hand County?

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