"Share a Coke": A Creative Tip for Getting Staff Involved

One of the first steps in the “turning outward” approach is to convene conversations with members of your own organization. Several Harwood Institute tools — including Aspirations, Turn Outward and Intentionality — are designed to help teams assess their current community engagement efforts and shift their orientation from internal (putting their institution first) to external (putting their community first).

But people have busy schedules, and not everyone is eager to jump on board with a new project -- especially one that isn't mandatory. Suffolk (Va.) Public Library, one of the Libraries Transforming Communities Public Innovators Cohort libraries, were having trouble getting their staff to attend.

They came up with a creative solution: a “Share a Coke” activity. The LTC team put a “Share a Coke” Coke can in every staff member’s mailbox. Attached to the can was the name of their assigned partner and a list of discussion questions from the Intentionality and Turn Outward tools. Staff were asked to sit down with their partner that week, during the workday, and talk through the questions, record one another’s answers, and return the completed questionnaire to the LTC team. (They were asked to keep their answers anonymous.)

The idea worked: even though participation was not mandatory, all of the library’s 50 staff members turned in the questionnaire. The responses will be used to develop a narrative statement describing the aspirations of the Suffolk Library staff.