Although he often worked for external clients such as governments, I consider his work to be community development … where the focus is on helping the community to be
- Stronger …… and provide ways that community members can achieve their goals such as
- improved access to health services,
- better education,
- attracting business and
- attracting tourists.
His work has been mainly undertaken in rural settings.
I think community engagement is about working with a community or its key stakeholders … where the focus is on
1. seeking an understanding of issues relating to projects, such as infrastructure building, that may affect the citizens in the area surrounding the development, such as …
land access, noise, dust, disruption, culture and heritage.
Stakeholders who are prepared to participate
1. provide the proponents with vital information and in return they receive compensation and mutual benefit should result.
The latest term for this is a “social licence to operate”.
However, often, many members of the community do not participate in the process and are left mostly ignorant of how they could have participated or benefited.
I think there is a pretty clear difference between the two concepts.
However, I also think communities and the general public are confused by the terms.
And I think many in the profession are “OK” with the blurring of the lines for a number of reasons.
1. The word “engagement” is the biggest reason. It has become the buzzword of the moment and everyone is using it. It is desirable. If you can do “engagement” you must be doing something important or relevant. The International Association for Public Participation is happy to include community engagement in its terminology.
2. Confusion about the eventual outcome is the next big reason. If you are going to do something that is not really very “nice” and you know lots of people won’t like it, the temptation is to dress it up and try to make it into something easier to sell. The confusion between community engagement and community development helps this process and I suggest government and corporates know and exploit this ... like a nice warm soft blanket hiding something not so “nice”.
I have been observing the different discussion groups on LinkedIn and I think these indicate that professionalization of community engagement is growing rapidly, particularly in the government, mining and infrastructure sectors.
Many professionals now work across the different levels of “engagement”, from information and consultation to empowerment and deliberative democracy.
So my questions for the blogosphere are:
1. how do they feel about the seemingly vast differences in outcomes for citizens?
2. What sorts (training/education/professions) of people “do” community engagement and community development?
3. Where does public participation fit? It claims to be community engagement.