Engaging Context Experts

Submitted by Lisa Attygalle on July 13, 2017 - 4:03am

Authentic community engagement is the intentional process of co-creating solutions in partnership with people who know best, through their own experiences, the barriers to opportunity. Authentic community engagement is grounded in building relationships based on mutual respect that acknowledges each person’s added value to developing solutions together.

Tokenistic community engagement is often an unfortunate outcome of community engagement that’s been mandated. Many sectors, including engineering and healthcare, require community engagement to be a part of every development process. It’s mandated for positive reasons – the understanding that community input is essential when the end result will directly impact the community – but the execution is what can often be problematic. If you are in a situation where community engagement is mandated, spend time figuring out your ‘why’. Why is it important to hear from the community? What wisdom and lived experience do community members have? Being intentional with the purpose of engagement for each of your initiatives will help ensure that ‘the way you’ve always done it’ doesn’t get in the way of the need for authentic engagement.

This paper will focus on how we can engage context experts authentically in our community engagement efforts, by providing several stories showcasing meaningful engagement of context experts, and a distillation of lessons from these stories to keep in mind as you design your future engagement initiatives.

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