What is community engagement?
Community engagement is a process of involving all interested citizens, decision-makers, and organizations to envision the community's future. It provides a framework to set priorities and coordinate decisions across all elements of civic life. The community engagement process brings together people from all walks of life to identify their shared values, and to envision how those values can be embodied in the future growth of the community. Following the establishment of a vision, the community can use planning tools to identify goals, objectives, and an action plan for moving the vision forward.
Why and where is this tool applied?
Community engagement processes have been employed to develop statewide policy plans, regional land use and transportation plans, city and county comprehensive plans, and master plans for towns, villages, and neighborhoods. Ideally, community engagement at local, regional, and statewide levels complement one another. When a community engagement process is conducted in a way that respects the visions of adjacent communities, it strengthens the ability of the region as a whole to foster and sustain healthy economic growth and strong environmental stewardship.
Anyone and everyone who has a stake in the future of the community should be engaged in a planning process. This not only includes planners and residents, but state and regional agencies, adjacent localities, chambers of commerce, nonprofit groups, grant making organizations, educators and more. Active relationships with a wide spectrum of community members can spark new partnerships to help fund projects. Successful community engagement efforts can be initiated by any of the key partners, from private nonprofit or for-profit organizations to local governments, regional organizations, or state agencies.
Where can I get more information?
- Ames, S., Guide to Community Visioning: Hands-On Information for Local Communities, published by APA Planners Press, 1993;
- The Center for Rural Pennsylvania's Planning for the Future: A Handbook on Community Visioning;
- International Association of Public Participation;
- National Charrette Institute;
- Place Matters; and