The Engagement Canvas

The Engagement Canvas is a ‘plan on a page’ that takes hours, not weeks, to complete.

It covers all the key strategic considerations for an engagement project.

And because it’s all on one structured A3 (11x17) page, it’s easy to get valuable feedback on your strategy.

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Why use the Canvas rather than traditional planning tools?

Think about how you usually plan an engagement project.

Chances are, one of two things will happen...

Your engagement planning is fast but not strategic

This is usually what happens for people new to engagement. You sit down at a one-hour meeting and throw together some ideas about how to engage.

It might be in front of a whiteboard, or it might be an open conversation with somebody taking notes.

What’s the problem with ‘quick and dirty’ engagement planning?

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  1. Likely to miss key considerations: The conversation is not well structured, so you often miss some key considerations.

  2. Unstructured notes: The output of the meeting is often not that easy to understand. It might be a photo of a messy whiteboard, or some detailed written minutes.

  3. Not easy to get feedback: When the output of your conversation is a messy whiteboard or some unstructured notes, it can be harder to get quality strategic feedback on your engagement planning.

Or, your planning is robust but time-consuming

More experienced engagement professionals often go to the other extreme. We’re talking lengthy engagement plans that go into a lot of detail.

What are the limitations of detailed engagement plans?

Detailed engagement plan
  1. Time-consuming: You need to take a lot of time to complete a detailed engagement plan.

  2. Harder to get quality strategic feedback: It’s hard to get feedback on detailed documents, and often the feedback you get is about tactics or words, rather than strategy.

  3. Makes it harder to be agile: Detailed plans tend to lock organisations into an approach, even if you soon realise that’s inappropriate. When you’ve spent so much time planning your engagement, and have a long detailed plan, it can make it harder to respond to feedback when you get out into the real world.

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.
— American army general, Dwight D. Eisenhower

Based on best-practice

We were inspired by the Business Model Canvas developed by Alexander Osterwalder, and a variation called the Social Lean Canvas developed by the Ākina Foundation. We’ve found these tools invaluable for clarifying and communicating our business and social enterprise ideas.

Plus we must acknowledge the significant work of many other people in advancing the ideas of engagement. In particular, we were guided by the work of the International Association of Public Participation and the AA1000 Stakeholder Engagement Standard from AccountAbility.