Community Engagement 101
Our community is where we live.
It is the people we talk and hang out with.
It is where our children walk and grow in, our family members interact with and our neighbors come from. Like in every instance where people live together, sometimes it is important to rouse the community to a certain goal or agenda that is beneficial to them or even others. What is community engagement? It is the process of getting the members of the community through building relationships and interactions that allows you or an organization to help engage them in a positive way.
What Does Community Engagement Involve?
In order to understand this, we need to understand the scope of the words “community” and “engagement”. While most of the times community is used to refer to geographical locations, it can also refer to people who have similar interests, connection or even are affected by an event or issue.
Engagement too happens on different levels. It can be active participation, one way learning, consulting, collaboration with the community and even empowering them to handle the task ahead.
Combined, community engagement has broad implications. However, it is undeniable that it involves some level of interaction with the members of the target community to address a certain agenda.
How Is Community Engagement Done?
Community engagement is about building relationships. You must therefore make this your first priority, to choose a method that will build a long-term friendship. In order to answer what is community engagement on an effective scale, let us examine a few techniques that are used.
You can choose to use discussion groups. This is a great way of getting information from the community and makes them feel important in the process. This can also help them get involved in planning processes for different community initiatives. Additionally, you can create public events.
The agenda of the event should determine the level of interaction this event has. Capacity building is also another great technique, though this is more suited for big organizations and government bodies. Other techniques include surveys and regular involvement methods.
The technique chosen depends on the agenda of the engagement. However, all should aim to build relationships that you can use later on to further engage them positively.
Why Is Community Engagement Done?
Apart from answering what is community engagement, we need to ask ourselves why it is important. Creating community participation helps achieve a lot of positive growth on many different levels.
By using survey and discussion group techniques, civil and government bodies can be able to ascertain the effectiveness of programs and services to the community. This helps in getting better services and policies for the people.
Community engagement also helps create an active, participatory community. People are involved in creating a better life for themselves and fostering that community spirit.
Neighbors become more supportive, citizens become more responsible and active and the community becomes better.
Through community engagement, valuable information and skills for healthy living, community development and personal growth are passed on. This in turn helps improve the quality of life of the community as a whole.
Community engagement, if done right, is very beneficial. However, care needs to be taken during the planning and engagement stages in order to get it right from the start.