4 Must-Have Pieces of Information For Community Engagement

Photo emphasizing the importance of community engagement within local government. 

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash


That was pretty engaging, right?

We’re giving you 4 pieces of information that you’ll want to hold in your back pocket as a local government leader. The topics of this article include:

  • What is community engagement in local government?
  • Why is it essential to engage communities in preparedness efforts?
  • How to engage the community as a local government official
  • Resources for increasing engagement with the community

1. What is community engagement in local government?

Community engagement is the local residents’ act of democratic participation in events hosted by the municipality. These events may include elections, fundraisers, surveys, annual parades, or any other act of engagement with the public. It’s more important than ever to encourage citizens of the community to participate, allowing the policies to act in favor of the majority instead of the people who have more resources to be active.

One of the biggest and most fundamental events that members of the community participate in is the elections process. A lot of times, this action may be taken in a response to dissatisfaction, or anger with services; which would most likely result in a reaction that’s proactive, reactive/indifferent, productive, or damaging. A proactive response would be something like reaching out to the local officials while a reactive or indifferent response would be something along the lines of not voting. A productive person might emphatically participate in more events while a person looking to damage might up and leave the community.

In local government, community engagement combines the sciences of political science, organizational development, public policy, and psychology with the art of empathy, marketing, and relationship building. Once a municipality is able to cohesively strategize around these skills, that’s when the community engagement efforts will become fruitful.

2. Why is it essential to engage communities in preparedness efforts?

Take a look at recent news and events such as the tornados in the midwest or Hurricane Ian on the east coast of the United States. Residents rely on their local government to give them the information that they need so they can be prepared in any emergency situation. As a leader for your municipalities communication efforts, your responsibility lies in making sure folks have a safe place to go in case of emergencies. It’s essential for residents to be comfortable and reduce the amount of anxiety in a situation such as a fire or a flood.

COVID-19 entered the world and had a significant impact on the way that each individual goes about their daily routine. At its peak, masks were required, hands were to be washed at no minimum than 20 seconds, and at one point, the distance required to stand between each other was 10 feet. Without engagement from the community, it’s impossible to keep everything in order or make adjustments if need be. It’s essential for residents to know how to handle a situation such as a global pandemic.

As we know from this global pandemic, misinformation can be spread. It’s essential for a municipality to be a reliable source of truthful information. When the community engages with the local government leaders via email, social media, or an in-person visit to city hall, they’re less likely to act negatively to the psychosocial and social factors in other areas. This creates a more organized and informed vote during the time of an election.

Many residents who live in the less developed parts of an area experience inequalities when it comes to community engagement. Whether it’s a lack of technology, a lack of transportation, or anything in between, it’s essential to have everyone participate. As mentioned above, if people from certain areas of a town or city don’t vote, they won’t receive the resources for growth and will continue down a path of economic downfall.

3. How to engage the community as a local government official

Have a strategy: One size doesn’t fit all, and a municipality not might get its perfect strategy on the first go; that’s the best part about engaging with the community. In order to increase that engagement, the officials need to fully understand who they’re talking with. A community strategy at its most basic level should include the preparation of the plan, the actions that will be performed, and the results or reports of the effort.

Build trust and have conversations: If local government leaders want the members of their community to participate with honesty, they have to build trust. Being a reliable agency that listens and applies real solutions to residents’ concerns is a superpower that will help strengthen relationships and conversations.

Tech/Online forums and communities: In this digital era, the simplest way to engage the majority of people with the least amount of resources is online. There are tons of forums and apps that can be used to relay messages. NextDoor is an excellent place for your internal community to share thoughts and feedback. If a local government agency doesn’t have a website or Facebook page right now, that needs to be the first priority.

Events and surveys: Hosting events for the community provides a more interactive engagement. It’s possible to hold captivating and thorough events online using various video conferencing tools – an underrated benefit being on-demand versions for emails later on. Post-event surveys will encourage anonymous and diverse responses. A quick tip: simple questions are the easiest to respond to.

4. Resources for increasing engagement with the community

Tech and sites:

Books and Publications:

Podcasts and YouTube channels:


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