Community Engagement Principles

The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking. – Albert Einstein
IUPUI Photo Library

Throughout its 25+ years, Spirit & Place has used the arts, humanities, and religion as civic tools and has championed collaboration amongst community partners. Through these collaborations, Spirit & Place has become a trusted ally for experimenting with new event formats, wrestling with complex challenges, facilitating difficult dialogue, hosting thought-provoking events, and exploring our sense of place.

Spirit & Place continues to live its mission as a catalyst for civic engagement and enduring change by breaking down silos, combating civic disengagement, and building stronger, more connected communities.

Our Values

Beginning in 2015, Spirit & Place reevaluated and began to move away from an outreach model of working within the community towards one rooted in community engagement. Some of the major changes in how we are moving deal not only with a perspective shift, but in incorporating new strategies in working with our community.

Our engagement approach can be viewed from three broad categories:

  • People-Centered Engagement
  • Adaptability and Flexibility
  • Capacity Building and Collective Impact
  • Embracing Emergence

We’ve reoriented our perspective from “outreach” (which assumes a center/source and a target) to “community engagement” (which embraces reciprocal and ongoing relationship / community development that builds trust). In this model, time is the most critical investment to successfully build effective, collaborative relationships and programs. Being present at crucial community conversations is important, as well as listening without expectation or agenda. In being present and listening to learn and understand, community concerns are in the driver seat and approaches are people centered.

Flexibility is essential to effective community building and civic engagement work in order to accommodate its many forms, which range from bringing together disparate groups with similar interests and compatible skills to pairing a more established group to mentor a start-up group. It is also important for Spirit & Place to have a presence in current events and issues.

We continue to explore what it means for Spirit and Place to fulfill its mission via a collective impact approach or bringing our “A Game” to support community capacity building around civic engagement. In this approach, weaving together new relationships and collaborations leads to exciting opportunities for unseen voices to emerge and new ways of seeing and doing. It may also mean that we use our work in community and in program design to support our community partners as they move forward to looking at new ways of working in the community.

Centering “emergence” in our work simply means embracing the unknown and looking forward to the journey instead of focusing simply on the destination; following the doors that open and carving new paths. Most importantly taking a risk to embrace and celebrate what may emerge from the process of working with, centering, and valuing our community. This principal often manifests simply by showing up and seeing what happens, who is there, building bridges, network weaving and then finding ways to move to action.


LaShawnda Crowe Storm

Community Engagement Director LaShawnda Crowe Storm is also a mixed media artist, activist, community builder and occasionally an urban farmer. Whether she is making artwork or sowing seeds, Crowe Storm uses her creative power as a vehicle for dialogue, social change and healing. Crowe Storm has ...

Spirit & Place
Indiana University – Indianapolis
425 University Blvd., CA 003B
Indianapolis, IN 46202

Spirit & Place

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