A reading list on family and community engagement

(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay)

The following is a reading list for an online elective (HLSC2241 – Family and community engagement: An introduction) I offer to students at the University of Newcastle about family and community engagement. The students come from a range of disciplines so the course is a fairly broad introduction.

Recently the focus of the course (or subject) changed from just being about community engagement to also including family engagement. This has had more of an impact than I thought it would, and I plan to update the reading list next year again (e.g., to include more material on family centred approaches).

The readings with an asterisk (*) may not be freely available unless you have access via a library or something similar.

Module 1: What’s this course all about? Introduction to the course and family and community engagement

1.1. An introduction to community engagement

The brief introductory lecture covers most of the material in this post but also includes some discussion of family engagement. I need to do some blog posts with this focus.

1.2. Ethics and community engagement

Much of this material is covered in a short lecture.

1.3. Moore, T., McDonald, M., McHugh-Dillon, H., & West, S. (2016). Community engagement: A key strategy for improving outcomes for Australian families (Child Family Community Australia Paper No. 39). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies. Pages 1-10. Available from https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/sites/default/files/cfca39-community-engagement.pdf

This reading by Tim Moore and his colleagues from the Centre for Community Child Health, provides a good introduction to community engagement. While the article is specifically in the context of improving outcomes for families, the material is also relevant in many other contexts. Pay particular attention to their discussion of the difficulties in defining community and community engagement (there is no widely accepted definition of community engagement), their introduction to levels of community engagement or public participation (which will be explored further in Module 3) and why community engagement is important.

1.4 Butteriss, C. (2016). What is community engagement, exactly? Retrieved 9 January 2017, from http://bangthetable.com/what-is-community-engagement/

The reading by Crispin Butteriss provides an overview of some different approaches to community engagement. I emphasise the discussion of community engagement as an OUTCOME, and community engagement as a PROCESS; the community engagement triangle, and the different understandings of community engagement. This reading demonstrates that we are covering a very broad area and so we will only be touching on many of the issues involved. If you want more information about the community engagement triangle, you need to request a copy of it from http://capire.com.au/engagement-triangle/. When I did that, I received a quick response and there have been no unwanted emails since.

1.5 Moore, T. (2011). Wicked problems, rotten outcomes and clumsy solutions: Children and families in a changing world. Paper presented at the NIFTey/CCCH Conference, Sydney. Available from http://www.rch.org.au/emplibrary/ccch/NIFTeY_CCCH_Conference_11_-_paper.pdf

Tim Moore, explores the difference between simple, complicated and complex problems. Some of my students come from science or health oriented disciplines where the link between cause and effect is quite clear and outcomes are more predictable. Community engagement is very much a social science, and it often addresses complex problems. This paper helps explain why sometimes we can’t be sure that when we do A, then B will happen, and why what works in one situation might not work in similar one. It also helps explain why we can’t provide a precise template for successful community engagement.

Module 2: Do people really care? An introduction to strengths-based approaches to working with families and communities

2.1 An introduction to strengths-based practice (a video lecture)

This is a video lecture I give introducting strengths-based practice. I plan to redo it as the production quality is not that good.

2.2 What is asset-based community-driven development (ABCD)?

Most of this material in this post is covered in a video lecture.

2.3 * Kretzmann, J. P. (2010). Asset-based strategies for building resilient communities. In J. W. Reich, A. Zautra & J. S. Hall (Eds.), Handbook of adult resilience. New York: Guilford Press.

John (Jody) Kretzmann and John McKnight started articulating ABCD as a specific strengths-based approach to working with communities in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The reading by Kretzmann provides a good overview of this approach. It is interesting to note that originally Kretzmann and McKnight only discussed five broad types of assets, but Australian practitioners encouraged them to include a sixth – “culture, history, values and stories that define the community.”

Unfortunately this reading is not freely available online. Some of the material is included in the introduction to Kretzmann, J. P., & McKnight, J. L. (1993). Building communities from the inside out: a path toward finding and mobilizing a community’s assets. Evanston, Ill.: Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research, Northwestern University. Available from https://resources.depaul.edu/abcd-institute/publications/Documents/GreenBookIntro%202018.pdf

2.4 Willetts, J., Asker, S., Carrard, N., & Winterford, K. (2014). The practice of a strengths-based approach to community development in Solomon Islands. Development Studies Research, 1(1), 354-367. doi: 10.1080/21665095.2014.983275. Available from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/21665095.2014.983275

Willetts et al., discuss how ABCD is actually used in the Solomon Islands. In identifying fundamental beliefs underpinning strengths-based approaches, as well as recognising the importance of individual and community strengths, they emphasise the importance of community development practitioners being facilitators rather than experts which is consistent with the idea of change from below (which is discussed in the reading by Ife.)

2.5 * Ife, J. W. (2013). Community development in an uncertain world: Vision, analysis and practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 6 “Change from Below.”

Jim Ife has written extensively on community development. In this chapter, he argues it is important to value local knowledge, culture, resources, skills and processes. His argument that change from below is at the heart of community development (in other words community development is community led) is an important foundation of strengths-based approaches and relies on active community engagement. Unfortunately the reading is not freely available online.

2.6 An example of asset-based community development

A video providing a great example of ABCD.

2.7 Doney, G., Pittaway, E., Bartolomei, L., & Ward, K. (2013). ‘The glue that binds’: Social capital in refugee communities settling in Australia. Sydney: Service For Treatment & Rehabilitation Of Torture & Trauma Survivors. Pages 1-9 and 33-37 (Pages 4-12 and 36-40 of PDF) Available from https://www.arts.unsw.edu.au/media/FASSFile/The_Glue_that_Binds__Final_Report.pdf

Social capital is a concept that is particularly important in horizontal community engagement and community building. The key message of social capital is that relationships matter, because relationships allow people to achieve things they could not achieve alone.

This is the introduction to a study on social capital for the NSW Service for Treatment & Rehabilitation of Torture & Trauma Survivors (STARTTS). Pay particular attention to their definition of social capital: “an asset that enables individuals and communities to access resources, address problems in common and enhance wellbeing” (p. 33) and the three types of social capital (p. 4).

2.8 Social capital videos

These are some optional videos I encourage students to watch if they want to learn more about social capital.

Module 3: Whose hands are on the wheel? Engaging families and communities in decision making

3.1 A radical & successful approach to working with Indigenous communities | Denise Hagan | TEDxBrisbane

In this module we mainly consider how to engage communities in planning and decision making. This talk by Denise Hagan is a reminder that working successfully with communities involves more than simply developing technical skills. It often requires that we build trust and relationships with communities first. One of the things that concerns me at the moment about our political system is that many people and communities, with good reason, no longer trust politicians and government agencies. Too often we see token consultation (e.g., where vested interests are listened to more than true consultation) or more consultation when what is needed is action (e.g., when there have been numerous reports recommending similar actions which have not been acted on). At times like this it is important to remember that community engagement is a principled approach and that ethics play a vital role. As well as being able to consult the community effectively, we need to be willing to really listen to the messages we hear.

3.2 What is the Spectrum of Public Participation?

In this blog post, I give a brief overview of the Spectrum of Public Participation. It is important to recognise that the Spectrum is particularly relevant to community engagement in planning and decision making (although it has relevance more broadly) and that it is NOT a process or a series of steps. Also take notice of the values and principles discussed in the reading, and the difference between the Empower level and empowerment more broadly.

3.3 Latrobe City. (2015). Community Engagement Plan 2015-2019. Latrobe: Latrobe City, pp. 4-13. Available from http://www.latrobe.vic.gov.au/files/014dd216-3a74-4d27-8409-a51c00c884dd/Community_Engagement_Strategy_2015-2019_ADOPTED_Sept_2015.pdf (pp. 5-14 of the PDF)

Many local councils’ approaches to community engagement have been informed by the Spectrum of Public Participation. The community engagement plan by Latrobe City (2015) is one example of how councils use the spectrum. Notice that although they describe community engagement as “a broad term that covers the interactions between Council, Latrobe City communities (which could be towns or other locations or groups of people with a common interest or identity) and other stakeholders” (p. 4), most of their focus is on planning and decision making. You will see that they also draw on the community engagement model, which is another tool by the International Association of Public Participation, who developed the spectrum of public participation.

3.4 * Bryson, J. M., Quick, K. S., Slotterback, C. S., & Crosby, B. C. (2013). Designing Public Participation Processes. Public Administration Review, 73(1), 23-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6210.2012.02678.x. Available from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1540-6210.2012.02678.x

Bryson, and his colleagues identify 12 guidelines for designing community engagement or public participation processes that could be relevant in a range of contexts. Like most of the other readings in this module, it is specifically discussing community engagement in the context of planning and decision making. This reading may not be available for free.

3.5 Conn, E. (2011). Community engagement in the social eco-system dance. Birmingham: Third Sector Research Centre. Available from https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/college-social-sciences/social-policy/tsrc/discussion-papers/discussion-paper-b-community-engagement.pdf

Conn (2011) discusses some of the challenges of community engagement when organisations, or external/public agencies, (which often have a vertical, hierarchical system of relationships) attempt to engage communities (which often have a more horizontal, peer system of relationships.) As a very simple example, as a worker, we might want to engage people during office hours, but as a community member, we might only be available after hours or on the weekend. It’s important to recognise that, in reality, there isn’t a dichotomy between organisations and communities (that is, they aren’t mutually exclusive or entirely different). For example peer, horizontal relationships play an important role in formal, hierarchical organisations as well as in communities.

3.6 Dryzek, J. S., & Niemeyer, S. (2012). What is deliberative democracy? Centre for Deliberative Democracy & Global Governance D2G2 Blog. Retrieved 15 February, from http://deldem.weblogs.anu.edu.au/2012/02/15/what-is-deliberative-democracy/

This is a brief introduction to deliberative democracy, which is explored more in the next reading. If we think of deliberative democracy in terms of the Spectrum of Public Participation, we can see it as an attempt to involve the community more in decision making: in other words move to the right of the spectrum. It explores ways of meaningfully engaging communities in two-way decision making.

3.7 Escobar, O., & Elstub, S. (2017). Forms of mini-publics: An introduction to deliberative innovations in democratic practice. Retrieved from https://www.newdemocracy.com.au/research/research-notes/399-forms-of-mini-publics

Mini-publics involve selecting a relatively small group of citizens (often randomly selected), giving them high quality information about an issue (normally controversial) and asking them to discuss policy directions and make decisions or recommendations. In this reading, Escobar and Elstub introduce a variety of approaches to mini-publics and discuss some of the potential for this approach to community engagement in planning and decision-making. Clearly mini-publics are not always appropriate but hopefully they demonstrate that it is possible to design strong community engagement processes at the collaborate and empower level of the Spectrum of Public Participation.

Module 4: Why doesn’t anybody show up? Actively engaging people in your work

4.1 Piano stairs – TheFunTheory.com

In this module we consider how families and communities can be engaged in services, activities and issues. This brief video is from a series of experiments called the Fun Theory, which explored the idea that if things were fun, people were more likely to be engaged. It is a reminder that engagement can occur in many different ways and that if we can find ways of making our work interesting and relevant, we are more likely to be successful in engaging people.

4.2 Jennings, K., & Bosch, C. (2011). Parent engagement in children’s education. Western Creek, ACT: Family-School & Community Partnerships Bureau. Available from http://www.familyschool.org.au/index.php/download_file/133/271/

Jennings and Bosch (2011) focus on engaging parents in schools and education. They discuss why engaging parents is important, the difference between “engagement” and “involvement”, different ways parents might be engaged in their children’s education, and strategies for engaging parents.

4.3 Jihad Dib on school transformation (TEDx talk)

This TEDx talk by Jihad Dib demonstrates how engaging families can be one part of a broader approach. You will also notice that the school adopted a strengths-based approach.

4.4 Social Determinants of Health – Housing

In this blog post, I provide a bit of background to the social determinants of health (including a 4 minute video from Canada) and then an example of a community approach to improving health by addressing inadequate housing. It’s worth watching the 17 minute TED talk by Paul Pholeros. While community engagement is hardly mentioned, hopefully you can see how community engagement is vital to this approach to health.

4.5 Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care. (2010). Working and walking together: Supporting Family Relationship Services to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and organisations. North Fitzroy, Vic.: Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care. Chapter 5, “Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in culturally competent ways” (pp. 82-103). Available from http://www.snaicc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/02497.pdf (pp. 96-117 of the PDF)

The Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care or SNAIC (2010) provides some useful information for engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities. Although it doesn’t specifically mention family and community engagement, it has lots of important material for people wanting to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families or communities.

4.6 * Bowen, F., Newenham-Kahindi, A., & Herremans, I. (2010). When Suits Meet Roots: The Antecedents and Consequences of Community Engagement Strategy. Journal of Business Ethics, 95(2), 297-318. doi: 10.1007/s10551-009-0360-1. Available from https://www.jstor.org/stable/40785088

Bowen, et al. consider community engagement in the context of business. They identify some of the antecedents of community engagement (i.e., the preceding conditions or context for community engagement) and some of the impacts of community engagement. Take note of the three broad approaches to community engagement: transactional engagement, transitional engagement and transformational engagement. This reading may not be available for free.

4.7 McDonald, M. (2010). Are disadvantaged families “hard to reach”? Engaging disadvantaged families in child and family services. Australian Institute of Family Studies. CFCA Practice Sheet. Retrieved from Australian Institute of Family Studies website: https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/are-disadvantaged-families-hard-reach-engaging-disadva

Engaging people in our programs can be quite challenging. The reading by Myfanwy (Muh-VAHN-wi) McDonald challenges the tempting tendency to blame the people we are trying to engage rather than looking at our service. It is a summary of the findings of research by Cortis, Katz and Patulny (2009) in relation to engaging “hard to reach” families. It suggests some things we can do to engage these families including:

  1. Go to where the families are;
  2. Promote and deliver services in a non-stigmatising and non-threatening way;
  3. Employ strategies that empower families;
  4. Develop relationships.

Module 5: How do we make an impact? Making an impact with community engagement

5.1 What is collective impact?

I finish the course with a look at collective impact because it is a topic covered in some of the other courses. I include it in this course in order to emphasise the importance of community engagement in collective impact.

5.2 Barnes, M., & Schmitz, P. (2016). Community engagement matters (now more than ever). Stanford Social Innovation Review(Spring), 32-39. Available from https://ssir.org/articles/entry/community_engagement_matters_now_more_than_ever

In this article Melody Barnes and Paul Schmitz argue that community engagement is crucial to data driven approaches such as collective impact. You will notice that there is quite an emphasis on strengths-based and bottom-up approaches.

5.3 Duncan, D. (2016). The components of effective collective impact. Rockville, MD: Clear Impact. Available from https://clearimpact.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/The-Components-of-Effective-Collective-Impact.pdf

In this reading, Dan Duncan explores collective impact through the lens of asset-based community development. Notice there are quite a few themes from previous modules in this (and the previous) reading.

5.4 Shape Up Somerville: Building and Sustaining a Healthy Community with Collective Impact

This is an example of a collective impact project focusing on promoting health, but you can see there are other benefits as well.

Let me know what you think of the reading list or if there are any other resources you think would be useful to share with students.

If you liked this post please follow my blog, and you might like to look at:

  1. Other resources for students and practitioners
  2. A reading list on ABCD (over 100 resources)
  3. 10 things I’ve learnt about strengths-based community engagement
  4. Making parents feel welcome in schools
  5. Community engagement in turning around schools
  6. Power and strengths-based practice

If you find any problems with the blog, (e.g., broken links or typos) I’d love to hear about them. You can either add a comment below or contact me via the Contact page.

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), environmentalist, Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace, sustainability.
This entry was posted in Families & parenting, Good articles/links, Working with communities and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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