Want to Advance Your Impact by Working with Policy Makers and Practitioners?

June 16, 2014

Innoweave’s newly launched Constructive Engagement module may be for you!

On May 27th, Innoweave convened its first ever Constructive Engagement workshop, developed and led by Sean Moore of Advocacy School, in partnership with the Ontario Nonprofit Network and hosted by United Way Toronto. Seven leading nonprofits from across Ontario took part in the one-day workshop to begin to apply new tools to advance their mission by engaging policy makers, practitioners and/or the public. In the words of one participant, the session “created a space for teams to focus on breaking down our obstacles and developing concrete next steps for solutions.”

Cathy Taylor, Executive Director, Ontario Nonprofit Network, noted that “successful policy engagement is a key part of getting our work done. We encourage nonprofits to join Innoweave’s Constructive Engagement session – it has helped refine our approach. We’re looking forward to seeing many more organizations get on board.”

The why, who and what in Constructive Engagement

Constructive engagement is grounded in having a solid understanding of the policy or practice change you want to see happen, why you want to make this change, who you need work with to make this happen, and what the person or organizations you are seeking to engage can deliver.

  • Why engage?  Constructive engagement needs to be based on solid understanding of your mission, and how engaging with other organizations (such as government) can help advance it. Workshop participants began their day by clarifying their impact goals and identifying policy or practice barriers that might be addressed through constructive engagement. Impact goals pursued by participants include enhanced cycling infrastructure, improved community food centres, youth engagement through the arts, and youth immigrant settlement and community integration.

  • Who do you engage? Next, you have to know who you are seeking to engage – not just who they are, but also their perspectives, needs, constraints, and objectives. Through the workshop, teams began to think about and prepare for Strategic Inquiry, the process which, over time, can help advance relationships of trust and mutual understanding.

  • What can you achieve through engagement? Finally, groups tackled the issue of crafting an “ask” to test with decision makers. Crafting a strong ask starts with a definition of what’s needed to achieve mission-related goals, what engagement partners could deliver, and what would be reasonable given the context (such as the political environment). Teams understood that their “ask” will be refined throughout the engagement process.

As one participant expressed, it was crucial to learn “that constructive engagement is about understanding the perspectives of those you seek to influence”. Constructive Engagement is “not a new idea,” explains Sean Moore. “More than a thousand years ago, Cicero advised: ‘If you wish to persuade me, think my thoughts, feel my feelings and speak my words’.”

Interested in applying Constructive Engagement to your mission goals?

You can learn more about the Constructive Engagement module:

  visit our website, featuring informational webinars and case studies;


  attend a Constructive Engagement Workshop in the Fall.

 If you have any questions about the module, granting process, or if you’d be interested in hosting a Constructive Engagement workshop of your own, or would like to become a coach please contact at info@innoweave.ca.

Innoweave provides small grants to help organizations access the coaching that they require to implement a new approach. If your organization has attended an Innoweave workshop, you can apply for a grant between now and July 2nd!