Week 4: Applying Business Concepts to Community Engagement

Week 4: Applying Business Concepts to Community Engagement

In the fourth week of our e-course on community engagement in collective impact, we look at opportunities for collective impact initiatives to apply business concepts to community engagement work.

Time: ~ 30 minutes of reading; ~2 hours of group time

This is the fourth of five modules to help collective impact initiatives better understand why and how to work with community members. While the course can be taken as an individual, it is recommended that participants discuss the modules in a group, with other members of their collective impact initiative. We recommend setting aside a few hours each work week to discuss the resources and complete the exercises. We also offer questions for each resource to help guide discussion.This material is meant to help you continue to develop your thinking from Module 1Module 2 and Module 3.

This e-course is not intended to be seen as the final word on community engagement in collective impact, but rather a starting place for the conversation. We offer these curated resources as an introductory scan of the literature and a way for your collective impact initiative to begin developing strategies for partnering with community members more deeply.

This module has four components to complete: Reading materials and video, an exercise, online discussion and a post-module survey. Access these components online by scrolling down, or by downloading the “asset package,” in the right hand column of this page. The “download this document” option listed first allows you to download ONLY the exercise associated with this module. There are “additional resources” listed in case you want to go deeper in certain areas.


This module will help you think through how to apply design thinking, Lean Startup principles and other business concepts as you implement your community engagement strategies. The reading materials introduce some of these concepts. The exercise walks you through designing an “experiment” to test the assumptions you have already identified in your work.

Learning objectives:

  • Consider methods you might use to strategically implement your community engagement work
  • Understand Lean Startup principles for practicing continuous iteration and improvement
  • Understand Design Thinking methodologies for embedding empathy and innovation into your operations
  • Design tests to check the assumptions you identified in the “Assessing Your Engagement Strategies” exercise from Module 1

Reading Materials:

1. Three Business Concepts You Can Apply to Community Engagement

This blog post from Living Cities introduces important opportunities to apply private sector practices to community engagement and collective impact.

Discussion Questions:

  • How might you launch a “minimum viable product” version of your community engagement strategies in order to learn faster?
  • What “infrastructure” or systems might you change or invest in to support enduring engagement?

2. How to Build Solutions that Authentically Engage Communities

This blog post featuring an interview with Laura McCluskey, a Customer Experience Leader at Wells Fargo, in which she offers concrete examples of private sector practices that can be implemented in community engagement.

Discussion Questions:

  • How is building customer loyalty similar to building community trust?
  • Do Laura’s comments about asking and listening make you rethink any of your engagement strategies?

3. Design for Capabilities

This video offers an overview of design thinking and an example of applying it within the federal government.

Discussion Questions:

  • How might you apply design thinking to your engagement strategies?
  • How could your design thinking influence other systems in your community?

4. Studio C Case Study: Taking Head Start to the Hill

This case study from the United Way offers insight and lessons learned from applying design thinking to community engagement work in Cincinnati.

Discussion Questions:

  • When and how in the past have your assumptions been proven wrong by insights from community members?
  • How could you apply the lessons from the Studio C Case Study into your own community engagement work?
  • How could you more intentionally incorporate empathy building into your collective impact work?


This exercise, developed by a top Lean Startup training firm called Moves The Needle, is intended to help you think through how you could design tests to check your assumptions as quickly and as early in your design process as possible. The link below takes you to step by step instructions for completing the experiment loop mapping exercise. Make sure you download the actual experiment loop map by clicking on “download this document” at the top right corner of this page.

Link to Exercise Guide

Online Discussion:

There are many ways you can discuss the course topics in this and other modules with participants:

Join the on-going conversation on the Collective Impact Forum community discussion page, which requires free registration.

Join our Twitter “study hall” on Friday, April 10th at 1pm ET (10am PT; 6pm GMT) to ask your questions and share your insights. We will be join by special guests from Moves The Needle to help spark and moderate discussion. Use the hashtag #CEinCI to join in.

Post Module Survey

Once you and our team have completed this module, please complete the Module 4 Survey, which will take about five minutes. This survey lets us know you have completed this module and gives us valuable feedback on how to improve the e-course.

Join the conversation on community engagement in collective impact online with #CEinCI.

Additional Resources

More resources on design thinking:

More resources on Lean Startup:

This is a case study and introduction to how Lean Startup principles can apply to social change work.

This is a website dedicated to helping social good organization apply Lean Startup methodology to their work.

To subscribe to the e-course and gain additional access to supplemental resources, interactive digital discussions, a live webinar and alerts to help you and/or your team stay on track along the way, register now.


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