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  Community Engagement Overview

Tamarack’s mission is to engage citizens in inspired action as they work together on behalf of their communities to create and realize bold visions for the future. We have a lot of experience helping people to collaboratively build communities that are caring, prosperous and healthy.

In the summer of 2003 we formed a learning circle to deepen our understanding of community engagement. We wanted to know who has written about community engagement and the different techniques for applying it. Over the course of the summer we researched these topics and held meetings with staff and external sources.

We hoped that this research would provide us with a deeper understanding of our own definition of community engagement and how our work can meet the needs of communities.

On this page you'll find:

Our Top 6 Community Engagement Documents

We found a great number of sources during our research - too many to put here - so we developed a list of our six favourites. Check them out in the list at the right.

You can also download the full report to view all the sources we found.

Our Growing Understanding of Community Engagement

Based on our research, we understand community engagement to be “people working collaboratively, through inspired action and learning, to create and realize bold visions for their common future.”

Community engagement process(es) bring people together. We believe these processes can enable collective change (changing attitudes, building social capital, etc.) and create movement in communities. Good community engagement will build agreement around issues and create momentum for communities to address local issues. It includes achieving outcomes and creating solutions to community needs.

Community engagement also includes following a process that ensures communities determine local priorities, and all stakeholder groups are represented. Citizens need to be at the center of the community engagement process. This process ensures communities are empowered and have control over their resources and the decision-making process.

We also believe that valuable community engagement processes and outcomes can be ongoing or episodic. They are not limited by time. Both short-term and long-term community engagement projects can have dramatic impacts on communities.

We think that community engagement involves a diverse number of stakeholders and can include a number of sectors. Different people, groups and sectors can collaborate and work together to discuss ideas, create plans and implement solutions to community problems. Multisectoral collaboration can create dynamic and creative communities and foster networks and new relationships.

Through multisectoral collaboration all participants work together as equals to create solutions for their community. Therefore any player, including citizens, organizations, and government, can initiate community engagement, as long as the process works collaboratively with communities.

We find that our understanding of community engagement is best reflected in seven key criteria. These criteria show, at this time, our approach to community engagement.

Key criteria:

  • A broad range of people are participating and are engaged
  • People are trying to solve complex issues
  • The engagement process creates vision, achieves results, creates movement and/or change
  • Different sectors are included in the process
  • There is a focus on collaboration and social inclusion
  • The community determines local priorities
  • There is a balance between community engagement processes and creating action

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Examples of Community Engagement

We wanted to find out what people are doing to improve their communities so we looked far and wide for examples of community engagement.

We combed the web, the research we'd already done and we talked to people to find a number of inspiring stories of community action.

We looked for stories that included local, collective action where people learn as they work towards common goals. We wanted to find examples of communities and people working separately from established organizations and governments that might control their decisions and resources. And we did!

We’ve gathered them here for you and to make it easier (and quicker) to go through, we’ve identified our five favourites in the table on the right.

Our hope is that these examples show people the power of community engagement and inspire them to take action in their own communities. We realize that additional examples of community engagement exist and that this list is not exhaustive.

The examples we’ve highlighted relate to our definition and criteria of community engagement. If you have any ideas about other examples we should look into we’d love to hear from you. Email us at tamarack@tamarackcommunity.ca with your input.

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community engagement studyDownload our full community engagement study!

Community Engagement

Community Engagement