Guiding principles of community engagement
The following principles are intended to underpin the community engagement process and should be taken into consideration as you plan engagement activities (adapted from MFSH, 2008):
- Transparency: Provide relevant information to the community in an understandable way.
- Recognise diversity: A community usually comprises a broad and diverse group of people encompassing different ethnicities, gender, age, socio-economic backgrounds, values and physical and mental ability. They may speak different languages and have a wide range of literacy and numeracy skills. All their backgrounds, interests, needs, values and aspirations should be considered.
- Inclusive participation: Provide all sections of the community with opportunities to contribute to and influence outcomes that will directly affect their lives.
- Equality: Encourage open discussion so that no sections of the community are left out and all ideas are treated with respect. Decisions should not be controlled by one particular section of a community.
- Cooperation: Schedule meetings at times and in places that are convenient for as many people as possible.
- Responsiveness: Respond to concerns and complaints from members of the community and provide feedback on the project process.
- Deliberation: Decisions should be made with careful deliberation to reach consensus among those involved, following a process of thoughtful consideration of different options, through reason and dialogue rather than power struggles.
- Influence: The outcome of the community engagement process should influence policy making and the eventual decisions.
These guiding principles are an important foundation for effective community engagement so that initiatives can be implemented, understood and reported appropriately.