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.