Cameron Wathey of Canada has consulted non-profit organizations and is passionate about grass roots participation and volunteerism in Toronto. In the following article, Cameron Wathey discusses the importance of civic participation, and 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 residents’ quality of life through collective action, using diverse skills, values, knowledge, and motivation.
While voting is the typical activity that springs to mind when thinking about community engagement, people should realize it’s far more than that. In reality, Cameron Wathey of Canada explains that voting is very much the base layer of engaging with communities for betterment.
Cameron Wathey Explains Community Engagement
According to the experts at GovOS, community engagement involves all sorts of activities — from community gardening to activism to donating blood to environmentalism to volunteer work and beyond. The list is pretty endless.
Cameron Wathey UTSU says that those interested in getting involved with their local community can do a wide range of activities, including the following:
- Setting up local farmers’ markets for small businesses in the area
- Volunteering at an animal shelter, homeless shelter, or food bank
- Attending school board meetings
- Voting local elections
- Creating or attending support groups in the area
- Participating in town hall or city council meetings
Models for Community Engagement
Not only are there limitless types of community engagement, but there are also various models for it explains Cameron Wathey of Canada. Some focus on forming stronger community bonds, others develop instructional services, a few provide something to an in-need group, and the rest deal with other neighborhood issues.
Each community has some level of engagement, but not every place around the world has the same level of passionate individuals or uses the same models to engage.
Regardless, the areas with higher community engagement fare better through unprecedented times, improving the citizen’s quality of life as it does so.
Cameron Wathey UTSU reports that the seven most common community engagement models are:
#1 Consultation and Public Participation Models
Polls, workshops, focus groups, open space events, and surveys all come under consultation and public participation engagement models.
Agencies, public authorities, and community-based organizations typically use them to gain real insight into residents’ opinions and make real steps toward changing the neighborhood for the better.
#2 Learning-Led Models
Cameron Wathey explains that these models mainly focus on supporting and building skills and confidence of those within a community. Learning-led engagement models encourage attendees to reflect on their place in the bigger picture.
On top of that, they aim to find training, development, and even employment opportunities for activists and others who engage in community endeavors.
#3 Asset-Based and Economy Models
Projects under the asset-based and economic model focus on appreciating the value of the community’s physical assets and people. They try to enhance the neighborhood’s control over these assets and the benefits they give.
Usually, Cameron Wathey of Canada explains that asset-based models are conducted by larger organizations that provide things like community-based housing, development of trusts, and purchasing forests.
#4 Service Development Models
Youth clubs, sports groups, art clubs, playgroups, credit unions, lunch clubs, environmental clean-ups, and similar activities all fall under service development community engagement models.
As the name suggests, these projects fill gaps in the public service provisions in the neighborhood, alongside identifying local needs.
#5 Identity-Based Models
Normally developed by minority communities and disability groups, the identity-based engagement models focus on giving people voices and providing space for them to express themselves.
Often, they include community action, volunteering, and community development explains Cameron Wathey UTSU.
#6 Community Democracy Models
Community democracy models aim to expand democracy. The projects achieve this in many ways. But they, in essence, craft informal “government” structures like those seen in active councils around the world.
#7 Regional and National Network Models
Finally, Cameron Wathey of Canada says that individuals should recognize that community engagement isn’t only about local neighborhood efforts. Communities linked to one another can share experiences, challenge perceptions, and make real changes together.
The Importance of Community Engagement
Understanding the definition of community engagement is important but knowing why it’s so crucial is perhaps even more imperative.
Community engagement allows residents to sustain cohesive, beneficial communities that thrive in all situations. Without engagement, local governments cannot actively serve the needs of their constituents.
Furthermore, Cameron Wathey explains that it leads to better outcomes for underserved or underprivileged members of the community. Essentially, community engagement is the primary factor behind social transformation.
When conducted regularly, community engagement can lead to healthy, thriving democratic societies that most people crave.