Redefine Employee Engagement

Transform involvement into authentic engagement and you'll be amazed at what people can accomplish. ThoughtExchange is here to help.
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May 19, 2022

Dave MacLeod

Engagement Vs Involvement

5 minutes

Are your communities engaged, or involved?

As a leader, you know that ideas matter. And the language we use to convey them matters, too. Defining—or redefining—words to align with our ideas is key in all sectors that aim to communicate with and receive the support of their communities, whether they’re parents, employees, or students.

We’ve noticed a range of definitions and ways of interpreting both engagement and involvement in the education sector. While they may sound similar, there are fundamental differences. To create positive change in your district, you need to ensure your community is engaged, not just involved. Here’s why!

What is engagement?

Traditional definitions of engagement don’t capture what we’re aiming for in education or other people-centered sectors.


  • a formal agreement to get married
  • the duration of such an agreement
  • the state of being in gear
  • a hostile encounter between military forces
  • We can do better than that. We define engagement as: a mutually beneficial interaction that results in participants feeling valued for their unique contribution.

    What about involvement?

    Involvement implies many of the qualities of an interaction that we include in our definition of engagement. The problem with “involvement” is that it is also used to describe a variety of one-way communication processes like surveys, newsletters and “talking head” info sessions.

    What's the difference between engagement and involvement?

    So the distinction between engagement and involvement seems to be grounded in the act of reciprocity or mutual benefit.

    At ThoughtExchange, we’re not alone in our quest to redefine engagement in organizations. Educator and researcher Debbie Pushor believes in the power of engagement, and she shares her definition here.

    She says: …that the person ‘engaged’ is an integral and essential part of a process, brought into the act because of care and commitment.

    She goes on to share:

    Engagement, “in comparison to involvement, comes from en, meaning “make,” and gage, meaning “pledge” – to make a pledge, to make a moral commitment . The word engagement is further defined as “contact by fitting together; … the meshing of gears”.

    If we look at the education system as an example, the implication is that the person ‘engaged’ is an integral and essential part of a process, brought into the act because of care and commitment. By extension, engagement implies enabling parents to take their place alongside educators in the schooling of their children, fitting together their knowledge of children, teaching and learning, with teachers’ knowledge.

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    The power of genuine engagement

    Genuine community engagement creates possibilities for flattening the school structure, sharing power and authority with educators and parents, and ensuring the agenda is mutually determined and beneficial.

    Could the same hold true for other groups? Constituent or community groups, boards, and perhaps in more enlightened workplaces, employee or staff groups? What about customer engagement?

    The question we need to consider is this: While we might be able to “involve people” with a survey, a newsletter, or an invitation to an information session, how can we transform this involvement into an authentic engagement where both sides realize the benefit?

    Curious? We’ve got solutions. Talk to one of our Education experts to find out how ThoughtExchange, the world’s number one discussion management platform, can help you include all the voices in the room and genuinely engage with your communities.

    Dave MacLeod
    As the CEO of ThoughtExchange, Dave provides product vision, team leadership and well-timed jokes. He has been focused on supporting his team as they continue to grow the company to help more and more organizations around the world bring people together by leading challenging conversations about things that matter.

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