Community engagement & working with communities

The following are some posts that might be of interest to students and practitioners in relation to community engagement and working with communities.

A few good places to start are:

  1. An introduction to community engagement
  2. Definitions of community engagement
  3. What is asset-based community-driven development (ABCD)?
  4. What is the Spectrum of Public Participation?
  5. What is community capacity building?
  6. What is social capital?
  7. Ethics and community engagement
  8. Bottom-up community development
  9. A community engagement reading list

You might also like to follow the blog (in the top right hand corner of the screen).

Here are some of the other blog posts that could be of interest:

  • Creating a safe space for a workshop on Zoom - Reflecting on strategies for creating a safe space for an Alternatives to Violence Project workshop we are offering via Zoom … Continue reading
  • What is praxis? - Recently I was attacked for being “out of touch with the real world” with the person going on to say that “many academics have a profound inability to communicate with the less ‘enlightened.’” It seems to me that the attack was at least partly based on a perception that academics live in a world of … … Continue reading
  • Some literature on engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities - A collection of articles on engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities … Continue reading
  • A reading list on family and community engagement - Here is a reading list for an online elective I offer to students at the University of Newcastle about family and community engagement. … Continue reading
  • An introduction to strengths-based practice (a video lecture) - An introductory lecture on strengths-based practice I prepared for students in a course on engaging families and communities. In it I outline 8 principles of strengths-based practice. … Continue reading
  • Sign - Changed Priorities Ahead Strengths-based measurement and collective impact - Data driven approaches like collective impact often prioritise shared measurement and collecting data, particularly quantitative measures, and do not consider the impact of what questions they ask, how they collect data, and who is responsible for interpreting the data. If we adopt a strengths-based approach to collective impact it is important that we think about … … Continue reading
  • A word cloud based onstrengths-based collective impact. Other key words include change, power-with, people and community. A strengths-based approach to collective impact - Collective impact is an approach to addressing complex social problems. As discussed in the previous post (Collective impact and community engagement), community engagement needs to be at the heart of collective impact, but the (sometimes subtle) message underlying too many initiatives is that the community is part of the problem. When initiatives take a top-down approach and do not involve the community from the start, they are implying that the community has little of value to offer. … Continue reading
  • Collective impact and community engagement - Kania and Kramer 1 argue that collective impact involves “the commitment of a group of important actors from different sectors.” There can be a great deal of variation in how these “important actors” are defined and identified. Some collective impact initiatives are quite top down with a focus on government agencies and professional community services rather than adopting a more bottom up approach that starts with community members. … Continue reading
  • What is collective impact? - Collective impact is a multi-sector/multi-agency, collaborative leadership approach to large scale social change in communities that is usually place based (i.e., it is focused on a particular town, neighbourhood or community). … Continue reading
  • Power and strengths-based practice - Strengths-based practice fundamentally challenges traditional approaches to power relationships in working with individuals, families and communities. Rather than operating from a position of power-over, strengths-based practice requires us to critically reflect on the dynamics of power in our relationships and to focus on power-with and power-to, and to nurture power-within. … Continue reading
  • 4 types of power: What are power over; power with; power to and power within? - When I first started as a youth worker in 1991, I was working in a medium-term accommodation unit for young people who were homeless. I really struggled with being in a position of authority having just graduated from a welfare degree that had emphasised “client self-determination.” I was really uncomfortable being in a type of … … Continue reading
  • A video introducing asset-based community development (ABCD) - This is a brief introduction to ABCD—asset-based community development (or asset-based community-led development)—produced by The Calabash Trust in South Africa. I like how it discusses the idea that the health of our minds and hearts affect our material well-being.  Too much “development” has focussed on material well-being and standard of living rather than quality of life. … … Continue reading
  • Resources for churches on asset-based community development (ABCD) - A while ago somebody asked me about resources on strengths-based approaches to community development for churches. Here are some suggestions, mainly related to asset-based community-driven development (ABCD). Articles about ABCD and churches or faith communities. Barrett, A. (2013). Asset-based community development: A theological reflection. Church Urban Fund. Available from: https://resources.depaul.edu/abcd-institute/publications/publications-by-topic/Documents/ABCD_Theological_Reflection_2013.pdf Church Urban Fund. (2013). Tackling … … Continue reading
  • Evidence-informed practice, evidence-based programs and measuring outcomes -

    This post is based on a workshop on evidence-informed practice, evidence-based programs and measuring outcomes that Alan Hayes, Jamin Day and I facilitated for the Combined Upper Hunter Interagencies. The slides from the workshop are above or you can download … Continue reading

    Continue reading
  • Effective Engagement: building relationships with community and other stakeholders - In 2005 the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment released a three part resource on Effective Engagement: building relationships with community and other stakeholder. In 2015, it was re-released by the Department of Environment‚ Land‚ Water and Planning (which had replaced the previous Department). It had some useful material and I often refer to it … … Continue reading
  • People in small groups having conversations Reflections on community development vs community work - I’ve recently been thinking about the difference between community development and community work, and the importance of being clear about which is appropriate for a given context. These are fairly initial thoughts so I’d welcome any feedback or comments. In thinking about family work, social work and other human service fields, it can be useful … … Continue reading
  • Evidence-based practice and innovation - In some ways we live in an exciting time where we are learning more and more about what works—and what doesn’t—in helping to nurturing strong families and communities. Research and research evidence play a crucial role in these discoveries and in ensuring that our work makes a difference. When I started working with communities and … … Continue reading
  • Marketing written in colourful letters Community engagement in marketing - In an introduction to herself in a university course I teach on engaging communities (HLSC2241 at the University of Newcastle), one of my students said she was studying a Bachelor of Business majoring in marketing. In response to a question about why she had enrolled in the online elective, she suggested that it “obviously hasn’t got … … Continue reading
  • An example of asset-based community development - Asset-based community-driven development (ABCD) is built on four foundations (Kretzmann, 2010; Kretzmann & McKnight, 1993; Mathie & Cunningham, 2003): It focuses on community assets and strengths rather than problems and needs It identifies and mobilises individual and community assets, skills and passions It is community driven – ‘building communities from the inside out’ It is … … Continue reading
  • The relationship between community engagement and community development - Community engagement is at the heart of community development. In her useful discussion of community development, Jessica Smart (2017) discusses the difference between community-based work “which involves the community”, and community development, “which is led by the community” (para. 5, emphasis added).  She suggests that community-based work is characterised by: Decision-making power rests with the … … Continue reading
  • Principles of effective parent engagement in early childhood education - The engaging diverse families project of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) identified principles of family engagement in early childhood education, collected case studies of good practice and developed resources to help programs more effectively engage families in children’s early learning. The six principles of effective parent engagement they identify for … … Continue reading
  • A continuum of engagement: A focus on the individual to a focus on the collective - A definition of community engagement by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning [1] reminds us that community engagement has a focus on the collective rather than the individual: Community engagement… is a planned process with the specific purpose of working with identified groups of people, whether they are connected by geographic location, special … … Continue reading
  • What is the Spectrum of Public Participation? - The Spectrum of Public Participation was developed by the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2) to help clarify the role of the public (or community) in planning and decision-making, and how much influence the community has over planning or decision-making processes. It identifies five levels of public participation (or community engagement). The further to the … … Continue reading
  • Mobilising community assets and volunteers can have side effects - One of the strengths of asset-based community-driven development (ABCD) is how it builds on the passions and skills of volunteer community members. It’s amazing what communities can achieve when they rely on their own resources. But there can be a downside too. It can be exhausting for the passionate, committed people involved, and there can … … Continue reading
  • Encouraging a broad understanding of community engagement - A paper about evaluating community engagement as part of the public health system  (South & Phillips, 2014) recognises the potential for community engagement in health to involve more than simply engaging people in planning and decision making. They suggests that community engagement can be framed in various ways: A delivery mechanism whereby community members deliver … … Continue reading
  • Retelling the story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott (Paul Schmitz) - At the recent Connecting Communities conference, one of the highlights was Paul Schmitz retelling the story of Rosa Parks. Rosa Parks is the woman whose arrest after refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man helped spark the Montgomery bus boycott. Apparently she was often portrayed as  an apolitical seamstress … … Continue reading
  • Rethinking the roles of families and clients in evidence-based practice - The principles which underpinned our approach to supporting Children and Parenting Support programs to implement evidence-based programs and practice as part of the Children and Families Expert Panel, had a large influence on how I presented evidence-based practice in the workshops we ran. As mentioned in a previous post about evidence-based practice, evidence-based practice is … … Continue reading
  • What is evidence-informed practice? - Some authors appear to use evidence-based practice and evidence-informed practice interchangeably [e.g., 1] but other authors identify significant difference [2-5]. The main difference is in the approach to evidence. Webber & Carr [4] suggest that, in evidence-informed practice: Evidence is conceptualised as a more inclusive and non-hierarchical notion than proponents of evidence-based practice understand it. … … Continue reading
  • What are evidence-based programs? - While evidence-based practice is a decision-making process that incorporates the best research evidence, the best clinical experience and family and client values; evidence-based programs are programs that have been standardised, systematised and rigorously evaluated. According to Williams-Taylor [1], evidence-based practice is an Approach, framework, collection of ideas or concepts, adopted principles and strategies supported by … … Continue reading
  • What is evidence-based practice? - Although there is no universally accepted definition of evidence-based practice in social work and family work [1, 2], it is generally described as a decision-making process that incorporates: The best research evidence The best clinical experience Family and client values [2-7]. (see Figure 1)
  • 6 characteristics of an urban village - Urban design plays a vital role in community building and promoting horizontal community engagement. This video and an associated report, New London Villages: Creating community, (Scanlon, Sagor, Whitehead and Mossa, 2016) explore the concept of villages within the city of London. In it they identify six characteristics which might define a village within a larger … … Continue reading
  • Types of community engagement – creating boxes? - Community engagement covers a very broad range of meanings, aims and strategies. In teaching community engagement to undergraduate and postgraduate students, I need to find ways to explore the diversity of practice that are relevant to students from a wide range of disciplines. One approach I take is to explore practice in a number of … … Continue reading
  • Luis von Ahn: Massive-scale online collaboration - I’ve decided to make this  entertaining and surprising TEDx talk, by Luis von Ahn, required watching in an online undergraduate course (or subject) I teach on community engagement (HLSC2241). Although the course is online, I haven’t included much material about online community engagement. I recently included the new version of  100 ideas to help engage … … Continue reading
  • Navigating dilemmas of community development: Practitioner reflections on working with Aboriginal communities - Abstract Intrinsically, community development involves navigating dilemmas. These dilemmas have intensified as neoliberal “arts of government” become more widespread and a “results agenda” more entrenched. Recent studies explore how community development practitioners manage the ambiguities of this current context. This article contributes by exploring how practitioners who work with Aboriginal communities in Central and Northern … … Continue reading
  • Engaging fathers Wordle Engaging fathers: An overview of evidence-based practice - Fathers are important. Research demonstrates that close involvement of fathers from birth can support positive infant and child development. This includes boosting social, emotional and academic development. Effective co-parenting, where fathers are engaged in positive ways with the mother and children is also a positive factor for children’s well-being. However, the influence of fathering on … … Continue reading
  • Grandfather, father and children 36 ideas for helping to engage fathers -  The importance of fathers is increasingly recognised in working with families. The following are 36 ideas that could help services engage fathers. Prioritise father inclusive practice in the annual strategic plan Ensure support for father inclusion through policy development Have an Engaging Father’s Policy Provide regular reports to the governing body on the inclusion of … … Continue reading
  • Dave Meslin: The antidote to apathy - An interesting short (7:05 mins) TEDx talk about barriers to community engagement. Dave Meslin suggests apathy isn’t the reason people aren’t involved in community engagement initiatives; it is because they are actively discouraged from becoming involved. He gives a number of examples of the way in which barriers are put in the way of community … … Continue reading
  • Fidelity and implementation Program fidelity and baking a cake - Program fidelity is an important concept in evidence-based programs. It is the “extent to which an enacted program is consistent with the intended program model” [1, p. 202]. In other words, it’s about ensuring we stay true to the original design of an evidence-based program when we implement it [2]. In the above short video … … Continue reading
  • Asset-based community development A reading list on ABCD (over 150 resources) - [Updated 9 November 2019 to add new resources. Click here for a list of the new ones.] The following are readings I’ve collected about asset-based community development (ABCD) and other asset-based approaches to working with communities. (If you want you can read my brief introduction to asset-based community-driven development and at the bottom of this … … Continue reading
  • An introduction to community engagement - [Updated 5 December 2017] As a Butteriss 1 highlights, community engagement means different things to different people and there is no widdepely accepted definition of community engagement. It might help to think about community engagement in three broad contexts: Community engagement in community development and community building – for example a community development project in … … Continue reading
  • What are program logic models? - [Updated 13 July 2017 to add a new resource.] Program logic models are like “road maps” which show how your initiative will work and why you believe that if you do certain things, you will get the results you are working towards. The main aim of program logic models, which have been around for over … … Continue reading
  • A community engagement reading list -  The following are some readings from a couple of subjects I teach (at both an undergraduate and postgraduate) on community engagement. The reading lists for the two courses are quite different but I have combined them here to provide a broad range of literature. I realise that some of them may seem a strange choice, … … Continue reading
  • 12 principles of a problem solving approach to conflict resolution - I’ve recently been involved with a couple of community groups experiencing conflict. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in an ongoing group that hasn’t had some conflict. A group without conflict is probably in danger of stagnation. What’s important is how we respond to conflict. I find a problem solving approach to … … Continue reading
  • Jihad Dib on school transformation (TEDx talk) - This TEDx talk by Jihad Dib, the Principal at Punchbowl Boys High, captures the essence of strengths-based practice and highlights the importance of community engagement. In the school of around 450 students, 65% of the students come from the bottom quarter of the Community Socio-Educational Advantage index and 98% of them have a language background … … Continue reading
  • Some good articles/links – evidence-based programs and practice - [Links check and updated, 18 September 2019] Four weeks ago I posted some articles about evidence-based programs and practice. As I’ve continued looking, I’ve found many more useful resources and thus decided to include some more. This time, most of them come from a great site What Works Wisconsin – Effective Programs and Resources for … … Continue reading
  • Welcome sign in chalk and flowers Some good articles/links for the start of semester - Semester 2 starts on Monday so I’ve been busy getting a number of subjects ready. This semester I’m responsible for two undergraduate electives (Engaging communities and Volunteerism – perspectives and management) and a postgraduate subject (School and community partnerships). Because of other commitments I won’t be active in them (they’re all online) but have been … … Continue reading
  • 9 principles for supporting families and communities - In 2006 I helped facilitate a national forum for family and community workers supporting permanent residents of caravan parks. Through the forum we identified nine principles of promising practice for working with permanent residents of caravan parks. These principles, however, have much broader relevance. This and the following posts will discuss each of the principles … … Continue reading
  • 3 types of community engagement (with related concepts and literature) - In the last post I discussed the first of two challenges faced by students in critiquing an example of community engagement: selecting a good example of community engagement. In this post I’ll discuss the second challenge: deciding what literature and theoretical material to use in critiquing the example. In the community engagement subjects I teach … … Continue reading
  • Selecting an example of community engagement to critique - I ask students doing an online subject on community engagement at the University of Newcastle to critique an example of community engagement as one of their major assessments and, because the students come from a wide range of disciplines, it allows them to select an example relevant to them. I encourage them to use an … … Continue reading
  • Wordle of social models of health What are social models of health? - Social models of health recognise that our health is influenced by a wide range of individual, interpersonal, organisation, social, environmental, political and economic factors. They encourage us to have a deeper understanding of health than a focus on biology, physiology and anatomy and to recognise that: Health, and what makes people healthy, can only be … … Continue reading

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