Soliciting Community Engagement
Why authentic community engagement matters for equity
Community engagement is rooted in the idea that people should have a voice in the policies that address the issues they face. In many communities, especially communities with predominantly marginalized populations, policy happens “to” people instead of “for” or “with” them. Power, and the perception of power, must stay with the stakeholders you are aiming to serve throughout the advocacy and policy making process. In order to enact/develop effective policy that serves the needs of affected stakeholders, it is important for you to gather feedback about your policy plan from the community.
Considerations for gathering community input
- Check mindsets: Community input for policy and advocacy recognizes that all people are entitled to say in the decisions that affect their lives. It is important that you approach this work in a way that ensures you are not inadvertently reinforcing damaging power structures.
- Build relationships: By building relationships, you not only earn the trust of the community you’re working with, which gives you access to deeper and more valuable information, you also lay the groundwork for long-term success.
- Earn credibility: Your credibility within the community is critical for both gathering input and effecting change through policy and advocacy. In the initial stages of earning credibility, it is important for you to actively demonstrate your commitment to the belief that genuine community input is a central component of effective policy making.
- Create a plan: As a teacher, advocate, and policymaker, you understand the value of planning and intentionality. As you begin to develop your approach, ask yourself what stage of the work you are in and what type of community input is best for the community you are working with and the project you are working on together.
Questions to consider when engaging the community in policymaking
- How does the elected body seek authentic engagement from the community when it sets out to develop new policy proposals and initiatives?
- What methods are they/you using to engage community members? How do they ensure that they are getting feedback from different kinds of stakeholders (e.g. parents, caregivers, different language needs, etc.)
- When developing a new policy proposal and/or initiative, how does the elected body engage those who will be responsible for implementation?
- How are you/the elected body engaging with community members and constituents?
- How are you/they creating space to foster or maintain collaborative relationships that will facilitate future engagement efforts?