Authentic Community Voice Should Not Mean Simplicity
April 14, 2017

A+ Colorado understands the value of community engagement and the value of authentic voices, including the complex messages they can share. As Liz Reetz, A+ Colorado District Advocacy Director, details in her latest blog, “When we construct authenticity as a lack of technical or policy knowledge, we limit the ways that communities interact with the systems that impact their lives.”

Reetz describes the thoughtful, prepared testimony from an Aurora mother who spoke at a public forum to her state representative on the board of education about why her daughter had to take remedial courses in college after she graduated from one of the best traditional public high schools in Colorado. Instead of asking how they could help change the narrative for students like this, members of the audience later questioned the authenticity of this mother’s message. They wanted to know why “she couldn’t just speak from the heart” instead of reading from a piece of paper.

In this post, Reetz explains what she calls the “insidious implications” of speaking from the heart. Limiting the definition of authenticity to purely reactionary, emotional communications, discounts a community’s ability to thoughtfully craft a meaningful call to action. Just as low expectations for students can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, so can low expectations for communities.

Shirline Wilson, Interim State Director of DFER Washington, also knows the importance of having an authentic voice. Wilson began her work in education as a parent advocate utilizing what she knew would work—her voice and her passion for her youngest son and other children like him. You can hear from Shirline in a blog here and an editorial here.

For advocates devoted to raising community voices and promoting community engagement, these resources may articulate many of the challenges you also face.

Tanzi West Barbour

Tanzi is PIE Network's Senior Director, Communications, Charters, and Choice

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