Models of Community Engagement

kids at a public drinking fountain

There are numerous models of community engagement, civic engagement, community involvement and participation. Three examples are highlighted below.


Asset-Based Community Development

Asset-based community development (ABCD) is a strategy, developed by John McKnight and John Kretzmann, which is used to discover a community's capacities and assets and to mobilize those assets for community improvement. The ABCD process focuses on the strengths of a community and how to bring those strengths to bear in community improvement activities. For example, a typical needs assessment may ask, "What is the problem?" In contrast, ABCD work asks, "How can our community assemble its strengths into new combinations, new structures of opportunity, new sources of income and control, and new possibilities?"

According to McKnight and Kretzmann, each community boasts a unique combination of assets upon which to build its future. One can discover in every community a vast and often surprising array of individual talents and productive skills, few of which are being mobilized for community-building purposes.

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Association for Community Health Improvement

The Association for Community Health Improvement works to strengthen community health through education, peer networking, and the dissemination of practical tools.

The Association convenes and supports leaders from the health care, public health, community, and philanthropic sectors to identify and achieve shared community health goals.

They serve needs in a number of focus areas within community health, including:

  • Access to care: Primary and specialty care for underserved populations, insurance coverage and barriers to access, disparities in care due to language and cultural differences, transportation, and more.
  • Chronic disease prevention and management: Community-based approaches to create the conditions for health and reverse the course of chronic disease.
  • Community benefit: Tools and methods to improve community benefit practices within hospitals and health service organizations.
  • Collaborative strategies: Effective partnerships based on healthy communities principles to achieve real advances in community health while strengthening the health system.
  • Measurement and evaluation: Logic models, indicators, and assessments to help establish goals, understand outcomes, and communicate progress.

The Association for Community Health Improvement was conceived in 2002 as a successor to three national community health initiatives that were approaching the end of their grant cycles or were otherwise ripe for renewal and growth: the Community Care Network Demonstration Program, ACT National Outcomes Network, and Coalition for Healthier Cities and Communities.These three programs had made complementary contributions to community health since the mid-1990s, focusing on topics including:

  • Health care delivery and preventive health systems that ensure accessibility and are accountable to local needs;
  • Careful planning for and measurement of progress toward defined community health goals, and;
  • Broad community engagement in resolving systemic challenges to community health and social well-being.

The Association adopted the key tenets of each and blends them with additional ingredients of effective community health practice, to create a unified professional association with broad value as a hub of networking and continual learning. The Association for Community Health Improvement has hundreds of members from 47 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada.

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Cultural Complementarity

In 1993, the Greater Twin Cities United Way's "Success By 6" Cultural Dynamics Committee developed and adopted a blueprint for new ways of thinking and discussing culture and race that could be used by individuals and organizations to rebuild relations.

Cultural Complementarity: Diverse people working together, valuing the attributes that such diversity brings to the group, in a combined effort to attain mutually agreed goals that would be difficult to accomplish via separate efforts. Working in a circle using a process of consensus, believing that all cultures and people have different areas of excellence as well as different challenges which, when brought together, will complement each other. The objective of this model is to provide clarity and direction to the efforts to attain equality by people of color through practicing "circle consensus" that exercises the principles described below:

  • A sharing of rights and responsibilities among all members.
  • A "power with" concept which utilizes personal and community empowerment by acknowledging multiple values, participatory negotiation, nurturing and a spirit of cooperation.
  • An attitude of abundance, creativity and the belief that limitless collective power is shared, instead of a scarcity approach for power and resources.
  • A positive inclusive approach in communicating that eliminates dualistic thinking.
  • A celebration of differences that evolves out of on-going dialogue and exchange among participants.
  • A sharing of experiential/active learnings based on personal experiences, supporting the premise that knowledge is an on-going, continuous process.
  • Sharing equally in the creation of future actions.
  • Collective work to eliminate racism, believing that racism is based on basic deceptions about the value of human beings.