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Community Engagement Methods

Are you looking to incorporate a community engagement component into your decision-making process but are unsure about where to start, or what type of community engagement process to use?  If so, this selection of community engagement methods has a number of useful resources for you. Please note our codes in the resource title that will help you narrow in on specific types of resources:


Introduction to Community Engagement (ICE) - resources that illustrate the spectrum of community engagement and the range of community engagement approaches available.


Community Engagement Methods (CEM) - how-to guides for some innovative community engagement approaches.



A Typology of Public Engagement Mechanisms (ICE)

Are you finding all the information available on public participation a little bit disorienting? Are you frustrated by the lack of consistent definitions? Are you wondering why there are so many different public engagement mechanisms - many of which are very similar to one another, differing only in the order in which a number of processes are implemented?


This journal article is an analytical tool that can be used when sorting through various public engagement methods. It develops a typology of public engagement mechanisms. It clarifies what public engagement entails and does not entail and clarifies how the various mechanisms are similar and dissimilar.


Level: Advanced
Download Here: A Typology of Public Engagement Mechanisms, PDF 624KB
Publication Information: Rowe, G. and Frewer, L. 2005. A Typology of Public Engagement Methods. Science, Technology & Human Values




Café to Go: A Quick Reference Guide for Putting Conversations to Work (CEM)

Are you looking for a creative way to facilitate a dialogue where the goal is to think together and develop actionable knowledge? Are you looking for a way to facilitate authentic dialogue within a group?


Hosting a world café session is likely to be a good option. Café to Go provides a easy-to-understand and concise guide to hosting a World Café session. The World Café is an innovative yet simple methodology for hosting conversations about questions that matter. As a process, the World Café can evoke and make visible the collective intelligence of any group, thus increasing people’s capacity for effective action in pursuit of common aims.


Level: Beginner
Download Here: Café to Go, PDF 624KB
Publication Information: The World Café. 2008. Café to Go: A Quick Reference Guide for Putting Conversation to Work.




Charettes 101: Dynamic Planning for Community Change (CEM)

Do you need to develop a project design under a fixed deadline? Are you looking for an engagement process that invites all stakeholders to participate?


Charettes can be useful when there is a need to develop a design solution quickly and integrate the aptitudes and interests of a diverse number of groups. They are particularly useful in community planning and neighborhood revitalization efforts. This guide provides an easy-to-understand outline on why and how to facilitate a charette process.


Level: Intermediate
Download Here: Charrettes 101, PDF 624KB
Publication Information: Fannie Mae Foundation. 2003. Charettes 101: Dynamic Planning for Community Change.



Future Search (CEM)

Are you looking for an engagement process that gets diverse individuals in the same room and on the same page? Do you need an efficient way to get diverse groups to develop an actionable plan for a shared future?


A Future Search planning meeting brings people from all walks of life into the same conversation - those with resources, expertise, formal authority and need. They meet for 16 hours spread across three days. People tell stories about their past, present and desired future. Through dialogue they discover their common ground and develop concrete action plans.


Level: Intermediate

Access Future Search here http://www.futuresearch.net/method/whatis/index.cfm




IAP2 Spectrum of Public Engagement (ICE)

Are you looking for a one page handout that you can use to illustrate and discuss the range of public participation options available?


The IAP2 handout can be used to easily explain the spectrum of public engagement goals, commitments and techniques. This would come in handy when working with a group to decide the intent and scope of a public engagement process.


Level: Intermediate

Download Here: IAP2 Spectrum of Public Engagement, PDF 624KB
Publication Information: International Association of Public Participation on Community Engagement. 2009. 1AP2 Spectrum of Public Engagement




National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation Engagement Streams Framework (ICE)

Are you using the same community engagement process over and over again, and not getting the results you were looking for? Are you looking for a community engagement process that allows people to feel comfortable discussing difficult and controversial issues - uncomfortable issues that people typically debate or avoid altogether?


Using a Dialogue and Deliberation method may work well for you. The National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation has developed the concise, easy-to-use Engagement Streams Framework to introduce people to the range of options that are available and to steer individuals in the right direction based on their situations.


Level: Intermediate
Download Here: NCDD's Engagement Streams Framework, PDF 184KB
Publication Information: Heirerbacher, S. 2004. NCDD's Engagement Streams Framework. National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation.




Open Space Technology: An Inviting Guide (CEM)

Are you frustrated with how regular meetings don’t have enough time or latitude for tackling the big ideas? Are there individuals and groups around the community with aligning ideas and plans but you aren’t sure how to bring them together? Is your community wrestling with a big idea and needing to identify the ‘what next’?


Open Space Technology is a great way to gather participants around a shared interest and support them in ‘getting the important work done’, as identified by the group. Learn how to create a compelling invitation that gives everyone the space and responsibility for getting to answers. This guide provides a preparation checklist to help you through the process of inviting participants and providing the space and the tools. Then, sit back, relax, and watch the action happen!


Level: Beginner
Download Here: Open Space Technology, PDF 624KB
Publication Information: Herman, M. 2006. Open Space Teachnology: An Inviting Guide.




Public Participation: Principles and Best Practices for British Columbia (ICE)

Do you work in the public sector? Are you considering different public engagement options in your work?


This guide is a good introduction to public participation for individuals who work in the public sector. It is clear, easy-to-understand and explains the full spectrum of public engagement. The proposed public participation framework assists decision makers to successfully undertake a public participation process by outlining when public participation is appropriate, and what depth of public participation is appropriate in given contexts.


Level: Beginner
Download Here: Public Participation: Principles and Best Practices, PDF 736KB
Publication Information: Office of the Auditor General of British Columbia. 2008. Public Participation: Principles and Best Practices for British Columbia.




Speaking Out in Community Engagement: A Review of Fifteen Years of Refinement of the SpeakOut Model (CEM)

How can we involve community members who do not usually participate in public processes in a participatory planning exercise? What can we do to create a welcoming and informal environment for a variety of groups to share their ideas?


The SpeakOut method is an effective way of providing an informal and interactive ‘public meeting’ environment where a wide range of people have a chance to participate. It is designed to facilitate structured ‘drop-in’ participation about planning and design issues. Participants come to the venue, find the issues on which they wish to ‘speak out’ and have their say. This paper illustrates the evolution of the SpeakOut method over 15 years, and provides guidance on how to organize and facilitate a SpeakOut event.


Level: Intermediate
Download Here: Speaking Out in Community Engagement, PDF 624KB
Publication Information: Sarkissian, W. and Cook A. 2005. Speaking Out in Community Engagement: A Review of Fifteen Years of Refinement of the SpeakOut Model. International Conference on Engaging Communities.




The Art of Powerful Questions: Catalyzing Insight, Innovation and Action (CEM)

Have you ever felt that you posed the wrong question in a meeting? Maybe it seemed like the logical question to ask at the time until you got limited or no response. Do you ever wonder how to structure a more powerful question to get richer, more meaningful feedback from your participants?


This article provides insight on how to structure powerful, engaging questions that provoke creative thinking and meaningful responses. It provides useful guidelines on how to structure better questions, as well as a list of “generative questions” that facilitators have found effective in stimulating new knowledge and creative thinking in a wide variety of contexts.


Level: Beginner
Download Here: The Art of Powerful Questions, PDF 624KB
Publication Information: Vogt, E., Brown, J. and Isaacs, D. 2003. The Art of Powerful Questions: Catalyzing Insight, Innovation and Action. The World Café.




What is the Art of Hosting? (ICE)

Do you wonder what facilitators are talking about when they refer to authentic dialogue (as opposed to just dialogue) and “conversations that matter” (as opposed to just conversations)? To learn more about the Art of Hosting and the importance of conversations that matter, check out this Art of Hosting Vimeo Channel: https://vimeo.com/channels/393360


More information on the Art of Hosting approach can be found at the Art of Hosting website: www.artofhosting.org or the Berkana Institute