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Don’t Trust Artificial Intelligence for THIS Answer

With all the excitement lately around Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the use of Chat GPT, there is one area where I hope you do not use AI – and that is identifying what your community believes about an issue or problem they are trying to solve. Don’t take any shortcuts on this. Period. There is no way on earth that AI can understand and experience the connections between individuals and within a community. That is a uniquely human skill.

One thing that has become abundantly clear over the past few years is that we all need to be active in the community engagement business. We have lost communities of all sorts – neighbors, schools, faith groups, shared hobbies, sports and more. At the same time, we’ve developed the habit of talking at or over each other instead of engaging in true back-and-forth conversations. All this has led to a deep sense of isolation and loss of connectedness. It affects us personally and it affects our communities.

To achieve a population-level impact, we must recognize that the issues facing any community are inexorably intertwined. The more deeply we recognize and seek to experience the connections between each other and within a particular community, the more we will be able to uncover hidden resources and innovative ideas.

So many of you are involved in truly exciting projects and initiatives that are in the works or already underway. Please, please make the voice of the community front and center. That voice is too crucial to miss. How might you do this? Build relationships with key individuals impacted by the problem that you’re trying to solve. Listen – and listen again – to their perspective on the issue. Since they are wrestling with the challenge regularly, they have deep and wide knowledge about this. Community members, not AI, will have insight into what is working and what is not working and where changes need to be made. 

Keep in mind that we often have a bias toward working with people we already know and feel comfortable around. But are those truly the people with the deepest, day-to-day, boots-on-the-ground knowledge of the challenge you’re tackling? Be willing to step out of your comfort zone and engage those with lived experience to get the kind of insights that will drive meaningful change. It may be difficult and perhaps a bit uncomfortable at first. That’s just fine. Building connections is not instantaneous but the effort is totally worth it. Take the time for listening sessions, focus groups, interviews, surveys and simply building meaningful relationships with individuals to work together to create innovative ideas around shared challenges. You’ll find it’s time well spent.

I know that you can type a question into the AI portal and an answer will be spit out in seconds. That’s fine if you’re looking for a newsletter idea or a good start for your book chapter or next magazine article. Community engagement, however, is much more complex. It’s going to take time, patience, and your undivided attention. Leave ChatGPT to the college kids and term papers.

Stay Sharp,

ISI Consulting

Holly Hayes, President & Founder
ISI Consulting