Building the Field of Community Engagement

buildingthefieldlogo finalBuilding the Field of Community Engagement collaborative has launched a new website! Check out the website for more details on tools and the Engaged Learning Series at:

Building the Field of Community Engagement (BTF) is a collaborative initiative designed to magnify and elevate the power of community engagement to change the way problems are solved and resources are invested. The initiative includes six core organizations:

  • Casa de Esperanza
  • Cultural Wellness Center (CWC)
  • Hope Community
  • Lyndale Neighborhood Association (LNA)
  • Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI)
  • Nexus Community Partners

These organizations have decades of community engagement experience and are sought after for their guidance and technical assistance, both locally and nationally.

Support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation, along with Nexus’ leadership, is enabling these partners to sustain this network over a three-year period to collaboratively learn, practice, evaluate and produce new knowledge together.  The initiative has the potential to bolster the work of other community engagement practitioners, encourage other organizations to integrate community engagement into their work, and provide foundations, policy makers and other stakeholders with research to validate the work, make better investment decisions, and achieve greater neighborhood impact.


A new website has been launched to support those who want to do effective community engagement and contribute to building the field.  All the documents produced by the partners, the impact graphic, the assessment tool, and the video are now available for download on the site, as well as links to other resources.  We invite you to visit the site and submit your comments on the documents and any resources that will support the field.


Engaged Learning Series

The partners publish an issue paper after each event in the BTF Engaged Learning Series, on-going conversations held in the community (opened to community organizations, foundations, institutions, etc) on critical community engagement issues.  Our latest event, Community Engagement Evaluation: Creative Approaches, was held on May 13, 2015 and a document will be produced in the next few months.

To receive invitations to events in the Engaged Learning Series, visit and sign up on the Home page.

From the February 2015 event: Evaluation and Community Engagement
From the September 2014 event: Distinguish Your Work: Outreach or Community Engagement
From the June 2014 event: Assess Your Work: Essentials of Community Engagement
From the March 2014 event: Impacts of Community Engagement

Some of the documents contain engagement tools:

Click here to download the Assessment Tool from Assess Your Work: Essentials of Community Engagement or the Revised Assessment Tool from Distinguish Your Work: Outreach or Community Engagement?


Each of the partners is documenting a story from their body of work about engagement and its many impacts:

From the Cultural Wellness Center: Stories of Impact: Cultural Wellness Center
From Hope Community: Stories of Impact: Hope Community, Inc.
From NACDI: “Stories of IMPACT: Native American Community Development Institute

Check back for stories from Nexus, Casa de Esperanza, and Lyndale Neighborhood Association, coming soon! 

Impacts of Community Engagement Model

View this 18-minute video on four essential principles of community engagement, produced by the partners in the Building the Field of Community Engagement initiative:


“Community at the Center”. This short film, produced by Working Hands Productions and composed of interviews with the partners, captures their deep and nuanced understanding of community engagement, including its challenges and potential.

Community Engagement Projects. With support from Nexus Community Partners, each partner organization has designed and is implementing a community engagement project that blends practice with exploration to produce new knowledge.  The projects are answering questions such as:  What does community engagement look like in our organization?  What are the impacts of community engagement and how can we capture those impacts?

Community Engagement Forum. The October 2013 gathering was the first in a series of discussions to raise the visibility and value of community engagement. Check out our Forum Memory Book.


The partners are dedicated to sharing their work and their expertise with the broader community.  To date they have presented at the following conferences:

Minneapolis Community Connections Conference, March 22, 2014.  How to Build a City that Works for All. Community engagement can effectively tap the assets of residents of all cultures to solve problems and create structures and processes that work for everyone.  Participants heard from organizations with extensive engagement experience and viewed a short film on ways to incorporate these principles into their organizations.

MN Campus Compact 20th Anniversary Summit, April 16, 2014. Advancing Equitable Community Engagement. As academic institutions seek to engage with communities, how can they tap the assets of community residents of all cultures to solve problems and create structures and processes that work for everyone? What is authentic community engagement from the perspective of institutions and from the perspective of communities? Beginning with a short film, “Community at the Center,” participants explored the principles of community engagement, along with effective strategies to build and strengthen authentic, equitable community-institution partnerships.

MCN Leadership Conference, June 26, 2014. Amplifying the Assets of a Community through Engagement. Community engagement is a foundational component of a healthy, vibrant community. Effective approaches to identify and build on the assets of diverse communities allow residents to solve problems and create structures and processes that work for everyone. In this session, participants viewed the film, Community at the Center, and discussed with three of the BTF partners how to integrate the principles presented in the film into their organizational structures and programs to better engage community members of diverse cultures in working together to improve their lives, their neighborhoods and their communities.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Center for Prevention, June 30, 2014. Community Engagement Innovation Funding Convening. Partners presented the “Impacts of Community Engagement” graphic to Community Engagement Innovation grantees to help deepen their understanding of their engagement work, affirmed the value of engagement work, and make the “invisible visible.”

MCN Annual Conference, November 7, 2014. Realizing Equity through Community Engagement. Non-profit organizations are increasingly recognizing the importance of community engagement as a means to achieve equity for all communities in Minnesota, but many struggle with how to implement this approach. Two experienced community engagement practitioners, partners in the Building the Field of Community Engagement initiative, provided concrete examples of successful engagement efforts where previously disenfranchised communities have become active in solving problems and improving their own communities.

For more information on BTF, contact Janice Barbee at or Theresa Gardella at