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The Practice of Community Engagement

When you hear the term “community engagement”, what do you think?

Is there a vision that comes along with all those terms, an image of togetherness, an image of celebration. My favorite? One that shows results. Lots of the time we can be consumed by the process and the planning but what about the results?

Sometimes organizing a community outing or hosting a fundraiser is the result. I like to reflect on community engagement by evaluating under the following 3 headings.

Advocacy

Through advocacy and awareness raising, group think can become a movement. Building active support around an idea or cause means to be active. Taking action in whatever way is suitable, that could be the use of persuasion, writing, speaking, protesting, being visible and much more. Advocacy campaigns are critical to mobilizing support, if you are able to get supporters engaged, you have one piece of the puzzle.

Advocacy is best kept for when "routine" work such as gathering support for a cause, raising money, and recruiting members of a community initiative or program won't get you where you want to go.

Working together

Encourage involvement and participation at all opportunities. To inform residents of all decisions being made you can ensure transparency and this is important to help society's reach their full potential.

Inclusivity is the name of the game. We see a lot more focus nowadays on making sure everyone is involved in all stages of decision making. This, of course, can lead to its own problems but nothing that in depth discussions can’t solve.

Building relationships, gathering and distributing information is essentially what all good public consultations have in common. You can read more about that here.

Balance

When planning for improved community engagement, you must find a balance between what will be most impactful and scalable.

Expressing viewpoints is something that community organizations spend a lot of time promoting but you must also be aware of how you are representing that idea. Develop an understanding early on about what is accepted within your community's organization and this will allow you to structure a framework that you can manipulate as your project grows.

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