Community engagement is people working together to address issues, concerns or problems by achieving one or more goals. Democracy is the power gained in working together to accomplish those goals. Both community and democracy grow as citizens gain the motivation, skills and knowledge needed to make community engagement work and their use of democracy effective.
Community engagement and the use of democracy can take many forms, and there are many factors that influence what works and what doesn’t. Since all communities are unique, each community’s goals will be different.
Here are just a very small sample of what communities working together have accomplished or could accomplish through the use of their engagement and the power of their shared democracy.
Cultural Read More
- Creating and producing plays that involve all ages, thereby getting the older and younger members of the community to interact with one another
- Forming groups that promote art activities from the youngest to the oldest members of the community
- Creating spaces where different kinds of cultural activities can take place such as art classes, concert areas, and theater areas.
- Expanding historical collections, heritage connections, personal stories and the recording of local history narratives, identifying important historical activities and resources in which to involve community members.
Economic Read More
- Generating specific production zones that facilitate employment and increase community tax revenue
- Building or identifying places for the wider community to use as affordable work space filled by local entrepreneurs/small businesses.
- Creating conditions and support that ensures the success of local business efforts
- Stewardship of natural and other resources ensuring their continued use into the future
- Providing crucial resources and infrastructure to enhance the economic activities of community citizens
Educational Read More
- Building mentor programs that support students in need of remedial work as well as those who need to be challenged and excited about their learning experiences
- TREC program to combat climate change,
- Community ESL and other kinds of classes that give community members the skills they need to prosper
- Gather-in-the-park classes such as dog training, house maintenance, meteorology or whatever interests the community members
- Ensuring a wide array of lifelong learning experiences for community members of all ages
- Creating maker spaces and laboratory experiences for after-school and home-schooled students to expand their understanding as well as for adults to expand their skills and knowledge
Environmental Read More
- Creating an infrastructure that supports the use of clean energy for transportation and home uses
- Supporting state and national efforts to eliminate fossil fuels in local business and domestic activities
- Working on ways that the community can recycle food waste that through community composting, oil reuse, distribution of unused food and other ways to ensure that food is not wasted and what is discarded becomes part of a healthy environment
- Reinvigorating soil to ensure that it is not depleted
- Planting trees that soak up the excess carbon
- Identifying and controlling sources of methane
- Creating a program to give people an understanding of the massive problem plastics and nanoparticles are having on the natural and physical environment and ways to engage community to reduce the problem
- Gather critical data for scientist studying the environment and presenting solutions for reversing global warming
Health Read More
- Community gardens with an array of community support services to facilitate people’s building and operating gardens
- Community responses to mental problems that occur as a result of depression and social isolation
- Community support volunteers for community members experiencing excessive stress and emotional traumas in their lives
- Ensuring that all community members have knowledge and access to the healthcare and mental health support available to them when they need them
- Information resources that address the negative effects of a variety kinds of stressors on community members’ lives
- Identifying and ensuring the success of community in dealing with safety and security issues
Political/Power Read More
- Stopping a local company from polluting the neighborhood
- Building the power to establish creative zones that put people together working on economic and technological problems
- Forming issue groups with a range of ways to be actively involved in national and state issues that motivate them and improve the community
- Civic Saturday (Civic University) – On Saturday mornings throughout the year, people gather together to hear music, poetry, readings, and a “civic sermon” in which they learn to connect to discuss how to live as powerful, responsible citizens members of their community. Online or in person, Civic Saturday a space to join as friends and strangers to nurture a sense of shared purpose and focus on issues in which to practice democracy.
- Eliminating political polarization (Braver Angels) so that democracy can work more effectively
- Creating skills to counteract violence in the home and other spaces in the community (Alternatives to Violence Project)
- Connecting community members to local interactions and efforts on state, national and global issues
- Addressing social justice issues that interfere with and harm community efforts to achieve equity for all citizens and reduce discrimination
Psychological Read More
- Building efforts to deal with suicide, depression and other mental problems that negatively affect the mental health of the members of the community
- Establishing and supporting community resources that deal with drug addiction
- Building ways for the community to support the creation of positive psychological conditions in community members
- Assisting the LGBTQ community to deal with their integration into and effective involvement in the community through problem solving, needs assessment and conflict resolution
- Developing ways to get people involved in mindfulness practices that reduce the effects of personal stress and enhance quality of life
Recreational Read More
- Building community active team sports and interactive sports programs that get everyone in the community involved in some physically involved activities
- Increasing the number of areas that allow community members to be actively involved in some aspect of recreation
- Making Hopewell’s natural environment available to the greatest number of community members by building activities that allow all members of the Hopewell Community to participate.
- Creating and using shared spaces such as community centers and art centers
- Creating parks and other spaces that make the community more appealing and increase property values
Religious/Spiritual Read More
- Creating an understanding of the different faith communities
- Working on Beloved Community issues such as nonviolent interactions and empathy
- Creating a center for the engagement and involvement in spiritual, cultural and civic issues.
- Religious engagement through narrative and images that show the contributions of and benefits from the various faith communities to our shared humanity
Social Read More
- Youth engagement projects such as the working on parts of the community that needs to be repaired or exploring and discovering aspects of the natural elements that exist in the community
- Clean up, preservation and enhancement of a local areas and facilities such as parks, wetlands, lakes or other areas that need regular work and care.
- Starfire is a community-built organization working to build better lives for people with developmental disabilities, such as Down syndrome, autism, and cerebral palsy. It does this by increasing social connectivity through meaningful relationships and by working to remove barriers to opportunities in the community where people can be known for their gifts, not their disability. The Starfire staff support the constructing of things enjoyed in their community, and that contribute to the wellbeing of their community. Thereby enabling the developmentally disabled members to connect as neighbors with gifts to offer and receive. Staff of the center journey alongside citizens who previously were at risk of not having their gifts recognized or received (due to labelling) to discover their gifts and find places of welcome in their community
- Identifying and coordinating the use of human social assets to benefit and enhance the social infrastructure of the Hopewell and meet the felt social needs of community members. Such as creating interactive groups around issues, interests and the development of particular skills
Technological Read More
- Create areas in which high speed Wi-Fi are available to everyone either in libraries or in parking lots or other places people gather
- Starting computer resource groups that support the needs of the community using the skills of volunteers
- Technology can augment and act as an extension of community capacity, to ensure that all have an equal footing with respect to technological resources, non-technological community assets, and technological resources that enable community members and can be distributed and used across the entire community thus enhancing community fulfillment possibilities and ecologically soundness
This is a partial list. Much more is possible with effective engagement and use of democracy.