I am glad to share highlights from a discussion with six local government and health affairs colleagues in Kannapolis, NC on September 20th. While discussing evaluation of public participation, someone said, “I see participation different from engagement.”
That comment led to a vigorous discussion.
From my perspective, the terms are often used interchangeably. I was interested in how those doing a lot of participation/engagement see the differences.
The International Association for Public Participation (IAP2), an international federation of public participation practitioners including a USA affiliate, has developed a spectrum of community engagement techniques. The spectrum ranges from “informing” to “empowering” the public.
These are wonky practitioner words; however, they actually mean a world of difference. Informing is focused on one-way communication, whereas empowering is literally giving the power of decision-making to the public.
I’ll describe a project on community empowerment, and some key lessons. First, I’ll address why empowerment is scary, often promised but not fulfilled in particular cases, and basic guiding principles for overcoming the challenges of community empowerment projects. Continue Reading