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 and Committees
Community Theatre and Arts
Cultural Competency Training
Health Impact Assessments
Informal Open Houses/Exhibits
Public Meetings and Forums
Public Opinion Polling
Surveys and Field Canvassing
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.
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).
- The Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute provides information and tools for conducting community inventories.
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.
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.
To increase awareness of differences, increase valuing of and respect for differences, and develop skills for interacting with differences among people.
- Cultural Competency Training by the Cross Cultural Health Care Program outlines how cultural competency training would be done, what would be included in the training, what participants would learn.
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.
Used to promote multicultural understanding in gender, age, religion, lifestyle, belief, physical capability, and culture, and to improve strategies for managing workplace diversity effectively.
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.
- When to use focus group interviews has tips on when focus group interviews should and should not be used.
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.
- Health Impact Assessments (MDH) describes how HIAs work and where they could be used.
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.
Scheduled "listening opportunities" for the public to meet with managers of services and elected officials.
- Listening Circles (Morningside Center) describes how to conduct a listening circle and typical events that occur within a listening circle.
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.
- The Citizen's Handbook (Vancouver Community Network) has information on media strategies: a list of media professionals, issue news releases, objectives and messages, and aim at TV, radio ads, and alternative media.
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.
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.
- What is a Survey? (American Statistical Association) has information conducting a survey, survey methods, questions, concerns, surveys and privacy, and where to get additional information.
- 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.
A process of communicating through stories to get results in the modern organization that traditional abstract modes of communication can't.
- Storytelling: Passport to the 21st Century explains storytelling, as well as when and where to use storytelling.
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.
- Pilot Study Circles (The Citizen's Handbook) has information on pilot study circles and how to conduct them.
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.
- Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships (NACCHO) breaks the visioning process for counties down into five key steps.