Communicating Effectively About Community Engagement

February 26, 2018

Communication is a priority for many of the MNCC members that have submitted Civic Action Plans so far—and no doubt a priority for others too. MNCC thus invited a thoughtful, diverse group of stakeholders to inform our work in that area. Here’s an excerpt from the toolkit the 2017-18 Communication Task Force is developing (which will be licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License so it can be adapted and shared).


  • Tell a story. People are much more likely to be moved by—and remember—a story that is vivid and specific, rather than a general description. Your campus’ communication and community engagement professionals could create a repository of stories for anyone to draw on.
  • Cite at least one compelling statistic. People don’t necessarily assume one story will hold true on a larger scale. The statistic could come from your institution’s assessment efforts or broader research.
  • Focus on issues of concern to your audience. Prospective students, parents, employers, legislators, school and nonprofit leaders, neighbors, and others will have different interests and priorities. Consider not only what drives your individual and institutional commitment to community engagement, but also what your audience cares about most. While they might not be passionate about community engagement, they might want to end homelessness, for example.


  • Developing students’ skills: We’re developing skills—communication, teamwork, critical thinking, problem-solving, working across difference—that employers say are essential for professional success, as well as full participation in community and civic life.
  • Interdependence: Campuses and communities will thrive when they understand and respect each other, seek shared prosperity, community vitality, and support neighbors’ aspirations to pursue education beyond high school.
  • Reciprocity: Community organizations and leaders are partners and co-educators; both the campus and the community benefit from collaborating.
  • Humility: Show you are listening to others’ voices, co-creating knowledge, and advancing shared goals together, not assuming your institution brings all the expertise and resources to the table.
  • Inclusion: We engage students, faculty, staff, and community members from a wide array of backgrounds and perspectives in dialogue and action, which does not always lead to agreement but does lead to deeper understanding and capacity for collaboration in diverse communities.
  • Relevance: Both student learning and faculty research are relevant, applicable, and useful beyond the academy.
  • Institutional commitment: Connect engagement to your institution’s mission, vision, values, learning objectives, and/or strategic priorities. Note how the institution lives out its civic commitment beyond student engagement (e.g., local purchasing, shared facilities, participation in community boards and events).


  • Meeting community needs → Addressing community priorities, advancing shared goals, or fulfilling our responsibility to our community
  • Helping → Working together, collaborating, learning from/with
  • Doing for → Doing with
  • Fixing problems → Jointly defining problems and creating solutions
  • Service-learning → Real-world, hands-on learning, preparing students for work, life, and citizenship

What do you think? We welcome suggested additions or improvements at info {at} mncampuscompact(.)org. And we thank the members of MNCC’s 2017-18 Communication Task Force:

  • Ginny Arthur, President, Metropolitan State University
  • Bill Clements, Founder, Moving Stories Media
  • Sandy Connolly, Communications Director, Minnesota Office of Higher Education
  • Gwen Freed, Director of Development, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota
  • Susan Heegaard, Senior Consultant, HCM Strategists
  • John Manning, Director of Marketing and Communications, Minnesota Private College Council
  • Rose McGee, Author and Creator, Sweet Potato Comfort Pies
  • Suzanne McInroy, Director of Communications, Bethel University
  • Andrea Northam, Interim Director of Communications, Marketing, and Media Relations, Winona State University
  • Deanna Sheely, Chief Communications Officer and Associate to the President, Minneapolis Community and Technical College
  • Sumair Sheikh, Career & College Readiness Specialist, Duluth Public Schools, ISD 709
  • Mikayla Smith, Student and Newman Civic Fellow, Concordia University-St. Paul