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Guidelines For Community Engagement

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Guidelines for community engagement


This document explains what is community engagement and how it could be developed in a research setting

What is community engagement?

According to Communities Scotland[1], Community Engagement is:

Developing and sustaining a working relationship between one or more public body and one or more community group, to help them both to understand and act on the needs or issues that the community experiences.

Why community engagement

Community engagement is therefore about:

  • The development of relationships
  • Open and clear communication
  • Networking and listening and having fun
  • Understanding the diverse people and places we work in

Community engagement can be layered at 5 different levels as illustrated in text box 1.

Text box 1: Levels of community involvement.


The ten Standards for effective community engagement

  1. The Involvement Standard

Identify and involve the people and organizations with an interest in the focus of the engagement.

  • In relation to the example of increasing access to maternal health services, one would have to identify the key players in that specific community. These would include mothers of reproductive age, men, health workers and district leaders and partners.
  1. The Support Standard

Ensure that all those that need to be involved are supported to get involved and work on  barriers to involvement. 

  • For example language barriers, social status barriers and gender restrictions. To achieve greater engagement, one needs to clearly put ensure that any barriers to involved are dealt with before engaging the community. One of the ways could be through structuring the engagement to ensure homogeneity in the group being engagement.
  1. The Planning Standard

Plan the engagement within set perimeters.

  • For example what are the community’s needs in relation to accessing maternal health services, what resources are available within and without the community. Once these questions are clearly answered, then an agreement on the purpose, scope and timescale of the engagement and the actions to be taken can be reached collectively.
  1. The Methods Standard

Identify methods that fit the purpose of engagement.

  • For example brainstorming might be appropriate for identifying local access barriers in regard to maternal health but a more elaborate method such as open discussions might be more useful for selecting the best way to increase access to maternal health services
  1. The Working Together Standard

Agree on clear procedures to enable the participants to work with one another efficiently and effectively is critical.

  • For example in the example of using CHWs to increase access, different players need to clearly understand and agree with their roles. Health workers for example might be expected to supervise the CHWs but the feasibility of this needs to be openly discussed in relation to their other roles.
  1. The Sharing Information Standard

needs to be Communicated all information generated through the engagement and any relate information between the participants.

  • This ensures that everyone participant is actively engaged and that expectations from each partner are feasible and achievable.
  1. The Working With Others Standard

Work with other partners that may not necessary be directly involved in the area of focus.

  • For example, political leaders may not be directly involved in the delivery of maternal health services but their involvement is critical especially when it comes to resource allocation decisions..
  1. The Improvement Standard

Enhanced the skills, knowledge and confidence of all the participants in the engagement process.

  • One of the key principles of community engagement is to empower the local community.  The engagement process should be inclusive enough and undertaken in collaboration with the local communities so as to meet their specific skill, knowledge and confidence needs. For example local stakeholders rather than external stakeholders so as to build local capacity can be empowered to undertake the training of CHWs.
  1. The Feedback Standard

Give feedback to the wider community and agencies affected. through acceptable local means, so as to achieve its intended outcomes

  • Feedback allows the communities to take specific actions as well as the partners involved in the engagement.  For example-giving feedback to politicians about their need to allocate more resources to health may be more appropriate through specific meetings rather than through written materials.

10.The Monitoring and Evaluation Standard

Monitor and evaluate whether the engagement met its purposes and the specific needs of community.

  • Monitoring and evaluating the engagement is critical in informing future engagements particularly to ensure better engagement in the future.


  • Listen Up! Effective Community Consultation – Audit Commission – 1999
  • Market Research Society Code of Conduct – Market Research Society – 1999 (under revision)
  • Connecting with Users and Citizens – Audit Commission – 2002
  • Feeling the Pulse II – MORI for IdeA –  2003
  • Research Governance in Health and Social Care – Department of Health – Second Edition 2003
  • Citizen Engagement and Public Services: Why Neighbourhoods Matter – Home Office – January 2005
  • Vibrant Local Leadership – Home Office – January 2005
  • Firm Foundations The Government’s Framework for Community Capacity Building – Home Office - January 2005
  • Safer and Stronger Communities Fund: Implementation Guidance – Home Office – 2005
  • Civic Pioneers Local people, local Government working together to make life better – Home Office – February 2005 
  • RDundee Partnership Strathmartine Community Engagement Action Plan 2008-2011.
  • R3Community Change How (not) to Exclude.
  • RScottish National Standards for Community Engagement
  • RNational Standards for Community Engagement. Communities Scotland, Scottish Executive.
  • R6VOiCE: Visioning Outcomes in Community Engagement
  •    Dialogue Designer
  • Process Planner


Communities Scotland (2005) National Standards for Community Engagement:  Reference Manual


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