Participation Strategies - Minnesota Dept. of Health

Community Engagement Strategies: Opportunities to Participate

Significant challenges confront communities and organizations wanting to involve the general public in charting their future. One challenge is choosing the best way to bring community members, decision makers and policymakers for effective decision-making together. The list below offers information on a variety of strategies to address this challenge.

Advisory Boards & Committees Health Impact Assessments
Charrettes Informal Open Houses/Exhibits
Community Inventory Listening Circles
Community Theatre & Arts Media Strategies
Cultural Complementarity Public Meetings & Forums
Cultural Competency Training Public Opinion Polling
Decision-Making Storytelling
Dialogue Study Circles
Diversity Forums Surveys & Field Canvassing
Focus Groups Visioning

Advisory Boards & Committees

Advisory boards and committees can be important assets in community engagement, especially if their membership includes representation from the community, and if they are open to and interested in engaging the community.


Meetings to resolve a problem or issue in which opportunities and constraints are presented and breakout groups develop useful solutions.

Community Inventory

A process for discovering what kinds of skills, abilities, and experiences individuals, associations and community businesses possess that could be translated into community building (e.g., economic activity and increased economic stability).

Community Theatre and Arts Projects

Using cameras, video cameras, tape recorded interviews, paintings and performances to present information and initiate discussion about the community and how it could improve.

  • Animating Democracy utilizes artistic activity for civic dialogue, art, music, and theatre. [Attn: Non-MDH link]

Cultural Complementarity

Diverse people working together to attain mutually agreed goals that would be difficult to accomplish via separate efforts. Work is done 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.

  • United Way Cultural Complementarity Model™ defines what the cultural complementarity model is, how it can be applied in a community or organization, what can be gained from using this model, and tools needed. [Attn: Non-MDH link]

Cultural Competency Training

To increase awareness of differences, increase valuing of and respect for differences, and develop skills for interacting with differences among people.


Expand leadership and management skills by teaching individuals to identify and analyze problems, generate and evaluate options, and take and implement decisions.


"A reciprocal conversation between two or more persons" (Wikipedia) . A communication tool in which people suspend their attachments to a particular point of view or opinion so that deeper levels of listening, synthesis, and meaning can evolve. It can be used to get to know members of the community to build trust, air feelings, identify issues and collect information. It is not used to make decisions or take actions.

Diversity Forums

Used to promote multicultural understanding in gender, age, religion, lifestyle, belief, physical capability, and culture, and to improve strategies for managing workplace diversity effectively.

Focus Groups

A discussion with a small group of carefully selected people who have been convened to discuss and give opinions on a single topic.

  • Focus Groups: A Practical Guide for Applied Research (3rd Ed.), by Richard A. Krueger and Mary Anne Casey.
    Visit Dr. Krueger online [Attn: Non-MDH link]

Health Impact Assessments

A structured method of assessing and improving the health consequences of policies, programs and projects. It involves working in partnership with a range of agencies and the public to consult and draw together the available evidence.

Informal Open Houses/Exhibits

Held early and throughout a planning process.

  • The Open House Technique provides information on the open house technique, such as tips for staffing an open house, room set-up, and preparation for it.

Listening Circles

Scheduled "listening opportunities" for the public to meet with managers of services and elected officials.

Media Strategies

Newspapers, newsletters, radio, TV, videos, billboards, posters and message signs, exhibits, mass mailings, and flyers designed to provide accurate information on progress being made on community-set goals; inform community members of invite their opinions about programs, projects or planning processes.

Public Meetings and Forums

Provide opportunities stakeholders for and community members to meet together to exchange information and ideas.

  • Kansas University's Community Toolbox for how to information on how to organize public forums, links to related topics, and checklists for community goals. [Attn: Non-MDH link]

Public Opinion Polling/Surveys, Questionnaires and Field Canvassing

Written questionnaires or interviews in person, by phone, or by electronic media, in which a limited sample of persons is considered representative of a larger group.

  • The American Association for Public Opinion Polling has information on best practices for survey and public opinion research discusses specific survey goals, ways to collect information on a survey, sample to represent the community, pretest questionnaires, and the quality check for the survey. [Attn: Non-MDH link]


A process of communicating through stories to get results in the modern organization that traditional abstract modes of communication can't.

Study Circles

A study circle is a group of 8-12 people from different backgrounds and viewpoints who meet several times to talk about an issue. In a study circle, everyone has an equal voice, and people try to understand each other's views. They do not have to agree with each other. The idea is to share concerns and look for ways to make things better. A facilitator helps the group focus on different views and makes sure the discussion goes well.


A process usually a series of meetings, focused on long-range issues and resulting in a long range plan that sets a strategy for achieving the goals.

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