Queensland Stay On Your Feet® - Toolkit Phase 2 - Community engagement
What is community engagement?
Community engagement is a framework that encourages government agencies, policy makers, corporate bodies and non-government organisations to seek out and hear public and consumer opinion and feelings on policy and operational matters. It involves encouraging community members to step forward, speak up and become involved in finding the solutions for the problems they face as part of their daily lives.
The idea that people can, and should, be actively consulted in as much of the decision making as is feasibly possible at all levels of government as well as having input into decisions made by major corporate and community organisations is growing in popularity.
"Engagement can be formal or informal, direct or indirect. Effective community engagement allows organisations, projects and programs to tap into diverse perspectives and potential solutions to improve the quality of its decisions. It also enables individuals and communities to better understand the processes of organisations and build their capacity to participate in deliberative processes through the acquisition of confidence, skills, knowledge and experience." 
Why is community engagement important?By building the community’s capacity to engage in discussion, debate, problem solving and negotiation, there is a strong benefit for the community and better quality governmental, organisational and corporate decisions. With a more informed, literate and aware population, there is a much more constructive environment for dealing with many of the more complex social issues of our time, including healthy active ageing.
According to the Brisbane Declaration, community engagement is critical for:
- effective, transparent and accountable governance in the public, community and private sectors
- generating better decisions
- delivering sustainable economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits
- enabling the free and full development of human potential
- fostering relationships based on mutual understanding, trust and respect
- facilitating the sharing of responsibilities
- creating more inclusive and sustainable communities .
How can we successfully engage the community?
Four core principles have been recognised as being essential to effective community engagement, namely:
- integrity - openness and honesty about the scope and purpose of engagement
- inclusion - when there is encouragement and a real opportunity for a diverse range of values and perspectives to be freely expressed and heard
- deliberation - when there is sufficient and credible information for dialogue, choice and decisions, and when there is space to weigh options, develop common understandings and to appreciate respective roles and responsibilities
- influence - when people have input in designing how they participate, when policies and services reflect their involvement and when the impact of their input on policies is apparent .
What are the different levels of community engagement?
There are different levels of community engagement, ranging from the basic provision of information, through to consultation and up to active participation.
The appropriate community engagement techniques for each level will vary depending on the issue, the community involved and other local circumstances.
For a detailed list of community engagement techniques for each level, visit:
The importance of feedback"Providing feedback to those who have participated in an engagement process allows them to see whether their views have been accurately represented when decisions are being made. Participants are often interested in receiving a summary of the range of information generated via an engagement process and how this is being considered, not simply a summary of their own ideas ."
Stakeholders and community members may take substantial time out of their busy lives to make an effort to contribute to community engagement activities. Therefore, it is important for them to receive detailed and useful feedback on how their views were taken into account. Without feedback, participants may assume they were not listened to and will not know whether their contribution has made a difference. Both situations are likely to result in a reluctance to participate in future engagement processes .
The Queensland Government community engagement website, ‘Get involved’, contains useful and practical community engagement guidelines and up-to-date research reviews. Get involved (Queensland Government community engagement website)
Engaging culturally and linguistically diverse communities
When attempting to engage with culturally and linguistically diverse communities, there are a number of particular considerations to keep in mind. For a step-by-step guide, visit Communities Scotland website
Another useful document is Consumer Participation and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities which has been produced by the Victorian Government.
The Victorian Health Department also has a falls prevention website Aged Care in Victoria with a number of materials available in different community languages.
Engaging people with a disability
For practical strategies to use when engaging Queenslanders with a disability, visit Get involved (Queensland Government community engagement website)
Engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
When attempting to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, there are a range of critical cultural issues and perspectives to keep in mind. Get involved (Queensland Government community engagement website)