Community engagement

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This article is about grassroots community benefit efforts. For governmental community benefit efforts, see public engagement

Community engagement is "a dynamic relational process that facilitates communication, interaction, involvement, and exchange between an organization and a community for a range of social and organizational outcomes" [1]. As a concept, engagement features attributes of connection, interaction, participation, and involvement, designed to achieve or elicit an outcome at individual, organization, or social levels [2]. Current research acknowledges engagement’s socially-situated nature. Community engagement therefore offers an ethical, reflexive, and socially responsive approach to community-organizational relationships with engagement practices that aim to both understand and be responsive to community needs, views, and expectations.[3]

Community engagement is a community-centered orientation based in dialogue [4]. Community engagement enables a more contextualized understanding of community members’ perceptions of the topics and contexts, and facilitates stronger relationships among and between community members [5]. The outcome of community engagement is ultimately social capital and stronger relational networks [6]. While community organizing involves the process of building a grassroots movement involving communities, community engagement primarily deals with the practice of moving communities toward change, usually from a stalled or similarly suspended position.

Current methods and implementation[edit]

A number of process models of community engagement exist in practice. These include:

  • Relational model of Community Engagement (Johnston, 2010)
  • The IAP2 Public Engagement Spectrum [1]
  • Continuum of Participation (Shand & Arnberg, 1996)
  • Map of Participation (Bishop & Davis, 2002)
  • Continuum of Community Engagement (Bowen, Newenham-Kahindi, & Herremans 2010)

A more strategic (organizational oriented) approach is the Practical community engagement- used as an active method of implementing change. While most current standards implore more static means through standard marketing techniques, community engagement involves actively implementing a specific process towards activism such as the 8-step guideline listed below developed by Hildy Gottlieb of Creating the Future.[7] While the process may have similarities to a controversial form of friendraising, the emphasis in community engagement is that of honest relationship building for the sake of community, not for the sole purpose of money-making. The steps are:

  1. Determine the goals of the plan
  2. Plan out who to engage
  3. Develop engagement strategies for those individuals you already know
  4. Develop engagement strategies of those individuals you do not already know
  5. Prioritize those activities
  6. Create an implementation plan
  7. Monitor your progress
  8. Maintain those relationships

Other programs exist to assist communities in the process of building community coalitions for engagement. One such program is Communities That Care which helps communities assess their needs and implement tested and effective programs to address their identified issues.

Key concepts[edit]

Community engagement may involve the use of particular key concepts relevant to the community benefit sector such as:

  • Friendraising
  • Community impact planning
  • Community-driven governance
  • Asset-based resource development
  • Vision-based community impact planning
  • Organizational wellness planning
  • Building programs on shared resources
  • Community sleuthing
  • Community-based program development

Differences between civic, social, and community engagement[edit]

Civic engagement refers to political activity, membership and volunteering in civil society organizations. A social level of engagement, such as community engagement, refers to the process by which community and organizations collectively build ongoing, permanent relationships for social benefits and outcomes.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ <ref>Johnston, K. A. (2018). Toward a theory of social engagement. In K. A. Johnston & M. Taylor (Eds.), The Handbook of Communication Engagement (pp. 19-32). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  2. ^ Johnston, Kim A. (2010-03-17). "Community Engagement: Exploring a Relational Approach to Consultation and Collaborative Practice in Australia". Journal of Promotion Management. 16 (1–2): 217–234. doi:10.1080/10496490903578550. ISSN 1049-6491.
  3. ^ Johnston, K. A. (2018). Engagement. In R. L. Heath (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Strategic Communication: Wiley
  4. ^ Taylor, Maureen; Kent, Michael L. (2014-10-20). "Dialogic Engagement: Clarifying Foundational Concepts". Journal of Public Relations Research. 26 (5): 384–398. doi:10.1080/1062726x.2014.956106. ISSN 1062-726X.
  5. ^ Johnston, K. A., & Lane, A. (2018). Building relational capital: The contribution of episodic and relational community engagement. Public Relation Review. doi:
  6. ^ Johnston, K. A., & Lane, A. (2018). Building relational capital: The contribution of episodic and relational community engagement. Public Relation Review. doi:
  7. ^ Community Engagement Step-by-Step Action Kit, Gottlieb, Hildy, 19-20 (2007)

External links[edit]