Cameron Wathey from Canada has consulted with non-profit organizations and is passionate about community involvement and volunteerism in Toronto. In the following article, Cameron Wathey discusses the importance of civic participation and the various models most commonly employed.
Community engagement, otherwise known as public participation or civic engagement, refers to the desire to make a difference in the community and improve the quality of life of residents through collective action, using various skills, values, knowledge and motivations.
Although voting is the typical activity that comes to mind when we think of community engagement, people should realize that it is much more than that. In fact, Cameron Wathey from Canada explains that voting is really the basic layer of engaging with communities for improvement.
According to experts from GovOS, community engagement involves all kinds of activities – from community gardening and activism to blood donation, environmentalism, volunteer work and beyond. The list is quite endless.
Cameron Wathey UTSU says those interested in getting involved in their local community can do a wide range of activities, including the following:
- Establishment of local farmers markets for small businesses in the region
- Volunteer at an animal shelter, homeless shelter or food bank
- Attend school council meetings
- Voting in local elections
- Create or participate in support groups in the area
- Participate in town hall or city council meetings
Not only are there unlimited types of community engagement, but there are also various models for it, says Cameron Wathey from Canada. Some focus on forming stronger community bonds, others develop educational services, a few provide something for a group in need, and others deal with other neighborhood issues.
Every community has some level of engagement, but not all places in the world have the same level of passionate individuals or use the same models to engage.
Either way, areas with the highest community engagement fare better during unprecedented times, improving the quality of life for citizens.
Cameron Wathey UTSU reports that the seven most common community engagement models are:
#1 Models of consultation and public participation
Polls, workshops, focus groups, open space events and polls all fall under models of public consultation and participation.
Agencies, public authorities and community organizations typically use them to gain real insight into residents’ opinions and make real strides to improve the neighborhood.
#2 Learning-focused models
Cameron Wathey explains that these models focus primarily on supporting and building the skills and confidence of people within a community. Learning-focused engagement models encourage participants to think about their place in the bigger picture.
In addition to this, they aim to find training, development, and even employment opportunities for activists and others who engage in community efforts.
#3 Asset-Based Models and Business Models
Projects under the economic and asset-based model focus on appreciating the value of physical assets and people in the community. They try to strengthen neighborhood control over these assets and the benefits they provide.
Usually, Cameron Wathey from Canada explains that asset-based models are driven by larger organizations that provide things like community housing, trust development and the purchase of forests.
#4 Service Development Models
Youth clubs, sports groups, art clubs, game groups, credit unions, lunch clubs, environmental cleanups, and similar activities all fall under service development community engagement models.
As their name suggests, these projects fill gaps in public service provision in the neighborhood, while identifying local needs.
#5 Identity-Based Models
Normally developed by minority communities and disability groups, identity-based models of engagement aim to give people a voice and provide space for them to express themselves.
Often they include community action, volunteerism and community development, says Cameron Wathey UTSU.
#6 Models of community democracy
Models of community democracy aim to extend democracy. Projects achieve this in several ways. But they are essentially developing informal ‘governmental’ structures such as those seen in active councils around the world.
#7 Models of regional and national networks
Finally, Cameron Wathey of Canada says individuals should recognize that community engagement is not just about local neighborhood efforts. Communities connected to each other can share experiences, challenge perceptions and bring about real change together.
Understanding the definition of community engagement is important, but knowing why it is so crucial is perhaps even more imperative.
Community involvement enables residents to maintain cohesive, supportive communities that thrive in all situations. Without engagement, local governments cannot actively respond to the needs of their constituents.
Additionally, Cameron Wathey explains that it leads to better outcomes for underserved or disadvantaged members of the community. Essentially, community engagement is the primary driver of social transformation.
When carried out regularly, community engagement can lead to healthy and prosperous democratic societies that most people dream of.