What is Community Engagement?

By Becky Hirst

There are various definitions of community engagement. In an attempt to come up with an Engage 2 Act definition of community engagement, we put the question to our online community - What is Community Engagement? 

The outcome? We realised that there is possibly no singular definition for community engagement. Depending on the topic, sector, motivation, desired outcome, instigator, and more, the definition changes. 

However, from the input we received, some key words were used often. Members of our collective used the words PEOPLE, DECISIONS, CONVERSATIONS and COMMUNITY most often. OUTCOME and TOGETHER were also used a lot. CHANGE, MAKE, WORK and LIVE were other top mentions. 

"Conversations with people about where they live, work and play. Through those conversations we work together to learn, plan and do!" Barbara Dart

"Involving people in decisions that impact their lives and shape how we come together (physical and social)" Joseph Waller

"Professional conversation starters" Caleb Sutherland

"For me, it's about how people affected by, or interested in, something, work through it together for a worthwhile outcome." Max Hardy

"Helping people talk, think and design together decisions they can make together; or influence the decision-makers" Moira Deslandes

"I always talk about how it is a conversation where information flows both ways. Also unlike many other forms of professional communications and campaigning, the purpose is not always to change opinions or reach an outcome, the outcome can be the conversation itself." Koel Wrigley

So in a nutshell, community engagement seems to be about the process of people being involved in their community, working with each other, or with government or other organisations, to make decisions or solve problems together. It's about conversations, strengthening relationships, building capacity, empowering people and coming up with worthwhile outcomes for the benefit of the community.