Reversing Trickle Down Community Engagement


By: Sarah Marczynski

One of my favorite nonprofit blogs, NonProfit with Balls by Vu Le, published a post on 1/20/2015 about the theory of trickle down community engagement.  The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera is in the midst of an education and community engagment planning process, so I was pumped to read this article.

Le defines the trickle down theory as:

Trickle-Down Community Engagement (TDCE). This is when we bypass the people who are most affected by issues, engage and fund larger organizations to tackle these issues, and hope that miraculously the people most affected will help out in the effort, usually for free.

Sound familiar to you? “Let’s work with everyone in the county to get instruments into the hands of the music teachers for their kids, but we’re not going to ask the music teachers once what they want or need.”

At the end of the post, Le gives funders, donors, mainstream orgs, and orgs led by marginalized groups some action items to reverse TCDE.  What he says to mainstream orgs, gives some items to think about as you look at your community engagement and education programs.

trickle down excerpt

Photo of author
Sarah Marczynski
Sarah joined the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera in 2010 working with the Marketing and Development staffs and quickly became interested in community engagement and education. She holds a Master’s of Public Administration focusing in Nonprofit Arts Management from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where her capstone and other work under Dr. Christopher Horne examined attendance patterns in high-art cultural institutions and network relationships between local arts agencies and cultural partners. She also holds a Bachelor’s of Vocal Music Education from UTC, where she studied under Dr. Kevin Ford and Ron Ulen. Sarah has been active in the Chattanooga arts community, serving as the founding chair of the Chattanooga Young Artistic Network (CYAN), graduating from the Holmberg Arts Leadership Institute, and working with the Chattanooga Boys Choir, the Choral Arts Society, the Hunter Museum of American Art, the Chattanooga Bach Choir. Outside of the arts world, Sarah pretends to be an excellent cook (but she's broken 2 ovens), reads Jane Austen novels, and watches way too much House of Cards.
Author Archive

Leave a Comment