Below are a few lessons I've learned about how institutions can effectively engage with community residents in community-based initiatives:
- Involve all community residents and stakeholders from the beginning of any planning process.
- Communicate with residents through as many means as possible: person-to-person, phone calls, text messages, flyers, etc. Person-to-person and phone calls are best.
- Provide transportation or transportation stipends.
- Attend standing community meetings in the community instead of holding meetings at the institution.
- Be open to meeting with individuals, coalitions, community associations, and other formal and informal groups.
- Be humble and understand that often "you" are a guest in "their" community and should not assume that your "help" is needed or wanted.
- If you want community residents to engage in an ongoing process, pay them for their time.
- Recognize that community residents are expert consultants on their communities and should be treated accordingly.
- Do not assume that community-based organizations are a proxy for community residents. If you want broad community support for an initiative you must do the hard work of reaching out to as many residents and stakeholders as possible.
- Hold general meetings and subcommittee meetings at times that community residents can attend.
- Co-plan and co-facilitate meetings with community residents. If 90% of the people at the table are from the institution, then you have a community engagement challenge.
- Always be open to new ideas about how to engage community residents more effectively.
This article first appeared on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140611213851-26875724-12-tips-for-authentic-community-engagement.