The Toolkit for Authentic Community Engagement contains a storehouse of ideas on how to address the wide range of personal and systemic issues that our world is presently facing. Perhaps more than anything, it is a guide for how to create productive spaces that bring diverse people together to listen to each other and to build just communities. As Northwestern sociologist John McKnight is quoted in the Toolkit: “Revolutions begin when people who are defined as problems achieve the power to redefine the problem.”

The Toolkit provides a path forward by marrying design thinking (how to deeply discover a community’s dreams), innovation labs (how to organize people to generate fresh ideas), and systems thinking (how to create deep and sustainable change). The tools include understanding for the critical difference between equality and equity, research-based ideas on how to talk effectively to the general public about equity, how to think systemically about problems, and how to design sustainable and innovative solutions.

The work is based on the YMCA of the North’s five years’ experience engaging communities including everyone from different racial and ethnic groups and a downtown business council to one of the most racially diverse high schools in the state and a rural town facing changing demographics.