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Perspectives on Community Engagement

Community engagement is a process that has been touted to achieve community goals in very many fields and industries. For the arts presenting community, it is a relatively new practice.  
 

An Arts Centric Perspective

Arts centric community engagement will most naturally spring from the artists, however, the presenter as an agent of/for change can identify groups in the community and connect them with artists for community engagement.  This engagement may take place as engagement with artists they are bringing into the community but could also spring from working with artists and teaching artists within their own community.  Community Engagement Learning Project: Advisory Committee Meeting
 
Community engagement is rooted in relationship building. The “what”, that is the art, grows out of the relationship, factoring in the interests and needs of the community. This is not simply a semantic distinction. The frame of reference of the arts organization impacts the quality (or even the existence) of the relationship. It will also affect the nature of the work presented. If  the art does not bear evidence of community involvement, the work is not a result of community engagement…
 
To me, understanding distinctions between outreach (and audience engagement) and community engagement is helpful in that it supports a broader palette of potential in the service of both organizational sustainability and community serviceDoug Borwick, Author, Building Communities, Not Audiences: The Future of the Arts in the U.S.
 

An Arts Education Perspective

What is community engagement? Community describes the people and organizations that are related to a community arts education provider’s mission: students, parents, families, artists, partner organizations, schools, government agencies, and so on. Engagement describes an active, two-way process in which one party motivates another to get involved or take action—and both parties experience change. Mutual activity and involvement are the keys to community engagement. Sometimes organizations interpret community engagement as collaboration, marketing to diverse audiences, or developing programs for underserved groups. While those are all worthy and necessary activities, an engaged community arts education provider does more. It promotes consistent community interaction that is a step beyond conventional programmatic partnerships. Consistent community engagement is not program based; it is part of organizational culture (2013).  National Guild for Community Arts Education
 

A Foundation Perspective 

“Community engagement is a method to improve communities by identifying and addressing local ideas, concerns and opportunities.  It is used in a variety of different ways and is difficult to define.  Community engagement can be passive (e.g. informing, consultation, and participation) and/or proactive (e.g. collaboration, empowerment and development).”   Tamarack

A Corporate Perspective

Community engagement is the process of working collaboratively with community groups to address issues that impact the well-being of those groups.  Activities that help firms engage the community include credible and transparent reporting, town hall meetings and collaborative decision making. Financial Times 
 

A Government Perspective  

Community engagement refers to the connections between governments, citizens and communities on a range of policy, program and service issues. It encompasses a wide variety of government–community interactions ranging from information sharing to community consultation and, in some instances, active participation in government decision making processes. Engagement can be formal or informal, direct or indirect. Effective community engagement allows government to tap into diverse perspectives and potential solutions to improve the quality of its decisions. It enables citizens and communities to better understand the processes of government and to build their capacity to participate in deliberative processes through the acquisition of confidence, skills, knowledge and experience. Queensland Government Web Centre 
 

A Health Perspective

Community engagement:  a process, not a program.  It is the participation of members of a community in assessing, planning, implementing, and evaluating solutions to problems that affect them.  As such, community engagement involves interpersonal trust, communication, and collaboration.  Such engagement, or participation, should focus on, and result from, the needs, expectations, and desires of a community’s members.”  Minnesota Department of Health
 

A Social Service Perspective

Community engagement is identified as a feature of integrated service delivery and is described in this context as “Departmental staff working collaboratively with groups of citizens affiliated by geographic proximity and/or special interest or similar situations to address issues affecting the well-being of those citizens.”  People are supported to become actively and genuinely involved in defining the issues of concern to them, in making decisions about factors that affect their lives, in formulating and implementing policies, in planning, developing and delivering services and in taking action to achieve a change.   Community Engagement Framework, Manitoba Family Services and Housing
 

A Library Perspective 

Implementation of the Community-Led Service Planning model will start us all down the path toward creating a dynamic and engaging social institution that is responsive to and inclusive of our whole community in ways that respond to their unique and diverse needs…VPL believes that meaningful and relevant service planning and delivery are best achieved through collaboration and shared decision making with community members.  Sincere collaboration requires library staff to be open and accessible to all community members…Communities are diverse and ever-changing. Engagement techniques and strategies require ongoing efforts, review and evaluation. Community Led Libraries Tool-Kit, Vancouver Public Libraries
 

Grassroots Perspective

Neighbourhood Houses are grassroots non-profit organizations, based in geographic neighbourhoods, that use community engagement and capacity building approached to identify and respond to community needs.  While the NH provides many important services and programs, the model is not primarily about the services; it is about community engagement and community building.  The term ‘client’ is not used; people involved in programs are neighbours, friendly acquaintances, program participants, volunteers.  When visiting a seniors program at a NH, it is often difficult to identify which people are staff, which people are participants and which people are volunteers; the approach is of doing with, not services forSustaining Seniors Programs through the Neighbourhood House Model, Vancouver

Why?

Kala Seraphin - Kingston, Ontario

Why?

Will Weigler - community based theatre

Why?

The House Concert - Cultural Diversity
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