Methods of community engagement

There are many different methods of community engagement. Table 6.2 gives some examples. Some are only suitable for one level of engagement and others can be used more widely.

Table 6.2 Community engagement methods. (Adapted from MFSH, 2008)

Level and type of engagement Methods of engagement
1 Sharing

Face-to-face meetings

Newsletters, posters in public places, letters and flyers

Press releases for local radio and television

Advertisements, notifications or articles in local newspaper


2 Consultation

Stakeholder meetings, interviews

Public meetings and forums

Surveys, questionnaires

Focus group discussions

Distribution of documents

3 and 4 Planning together
and acting together

Stakeholder meetings

Workshops, discussions, action planning meetings

In-depth interviews and discussions

Participatory stakeholder mapping

Participatory planning and implementation

Advisory committees, area councils or steering committees

Taskforces, planning groups, strategic alliances and formal agreements

5 Community directed

Community development

Participatory planning, implementation, expenditure tracking and performance monitoring, with public authority support

A high level of community engagement, such as collaborating to develop partnerships and provide recommendations at the project design stage, will help to sustain a project, empowering the community to make decisions and to implement and manage change.

It may be impossible to fully engage the community at every stage and you should consider the most appropriate level of engagement and participation for each particular situation. Most WASH programmes claim to have high community engagement, but may actually provide very little opportunity for the community to participate in the project implementation, so a key message is to avoid promising a level of participation that cannot actually be achieved. But the more you engage the community in decision making, the higher the level of ownership of the decisions made and consequently, the greater the likelihood of success.

Engaging schools and WASH clubs

As we discussed in Study Session 4, school children are considered effective WASH promotion agents who can catalyse behavioural changes in their community. Many children experience the use of improved WASH facilities on a daily basis in school. They learn why sanitation and good hygiene are important and this can influence their attitude and practice.

Involving schools and strengthening school WASH clubs helps to introduce behavioural change, firstly in the children; secondly, through influence on their families at home; and thirdly, through influence in the wider community (Figure 6.5).

Figure 6.5 Parents and other members of the community watching a school WASH club drama event in Bushulo.

Imagine you are working with the school principal and WASH club to promote improved WASH technologies and healthy hygiene practices among school children. What sort of events could you organise and what might be the outcome?

Show answer

Possible events might include regular WASH promotion days that bring families, students and teachers together. During such special days or on parents’ days or during semester breaks and holidays, children could present poetry, dramas, exhibitions or demonstrations. You may have additional ideas. Such events can inform and inspire not only parents, but also the wider local community.

Last modified: Friday, 29 July 2016, 10:01 AM