Community engagement can deliver significant value to communities through positive impacts on local government; health; education; employment and prosperity; housing; regeneration; and community safety. However, all levels of government face many challenges when managing community engagement efforts.
One of the first challenges is arriving on common language and common goals. Community engagement is defined differently by many sources. Wikipedia defines it as:
“Community engagement refers to the process by which community benefit organizations and individuals build ongoing, permanent relationships for the purpose of applying a collective vision for the benefit of a community.”
Often the most influential community benefit organization in a geographically defined community is the municipality.
There are several key questions to be answered in order for any municipality to better understand its current and potential approach to maximizing community engagement, such as:
•How do people want to be engaged? – news, info, activities, events, participation, opinions etc. and through what channels (newspaper, mail, email, posters, community signage, web, social media, etc.)
•What incremental changes will create the greatest positive impacts on engagement?
•How can the municipality use its resources most effectively to maximize community engagement – including outbound communications to citizens as well as inbound collection of opinions, information and feedback?
•What opportunities exist to engage residents on an ongoing basis so they can be used as a sounding board for issues across the City?
•What are the internal barriers/challenges affecting staff’s ability to more effectively engage citizens in current issues and decisions?
•How are open houses currently structured, promoted and concluded?