HomeLifestyleUnderstanding and Overcoming Community Engagement Challenges

Understanding and Overcoming Community Engagement Challenges

Community engagement is the basic form of government, and it heavily relies on civilian engagement to get things done. It affects issues that you use on a day-to-day basis and processes that affect your everyday life. It affects the air you breathe, the density of local traffic, and even the quality of the school that your kid or your kid’s sibling is going to. However, a lot of people just seem to be uninterested in it altogether.

Here are some challenges that are making this seemingly simple process into a difficult one.

1. Securing resources

The first thing you need to focus on is obtaining funds. This usually moves slowly, and this is something that a lot of people hate about community engagement. It’s not just about the money; it’s about the paperwork it takes to get access to these funds and the receipts that one has to keep as proof. You see, it would be so easy to misappropriate someone else’s funds (in this scenario, municipal).

This is also what makes the public work harder. It’s always easier to soundproof your home than to take measures that will make the neighborhood quieter.

Finding enough work power is a challenge, and the topic of how you can get enough people interested is something that we’ll address in the next section.

Just keep in mind that you need the resources to see the projects through. There’s a myth about government funding never going dry, but it’s a real mystery where this kind of talk is coming from. If anything, there are so many unfinished government projects lying around to disprove this in a second.

Ultimately, you want to keep all the records of your spending. After all, it’s not the money that you’re spending, which is why justifying every single thing you spend money on is so important. Your main focus should be keeping all of this both as proof of your good intentions and as important, statistically relevant data that will help with resource management of future projects.

2. Identifying community problems

There are all sorts of different community problems that you’ll be facing but the real problem lies in properly identifying these problems so that you can actually work on solutions. The thing is that, sometimes, the problem is obvious while you’re debating about it at a forum or at a city hall. Then, when the actual meeting to do something about it starts, everyone goes silent.

Some problems don’t have a clear solution, and most community problems are quite complex.

One of the biggest problems is food insecurity, and the solution to this problem sounds pretty simple – working on solutions that improve food security. However, what are these solutions exactly?

You can advocate for public kitchens, donate to them, and even volunteer there. You could also do what you can to ensure that the kids get at least one real meal at home. At the same time, one unexpected problem (even a counterintuitive one) is the fact that greater food insecurity seems to contribute to the obesity epidemic.

Issues like public health seem to be even more complex and even harder to put a finger on. The same goes for affordable housing and crimes. Here, you can either treat symptoms or work on the problems you believe are the root cause of the bigger issue and hope that this will, somehow, fix the matter.

3. Finding consensus

One of the most important aspects of community engagement is the fact that you need to do your best to create a consensus. You want everyone to be on board and on the same page. After all, this is not just one person’s private matter. It affects everyone, even people who are not participating actively.

So, you need to start by summarising sentiment. You need to be aware of the fact that even people who do not vote (not just political but who don’t express themselves on the issue) still have civic rights. Sure, it can be frustrating, and sometimes it seems so tempting to “show them” that their abstaining comes at a price, but the politics of retribution never takes you in the right direction. So, you need to analyze and summarize sentiment in order to get the right answer.

The longer the negotiations take, the more you’ll get to know the so-called consultation fatigue. This means that you’ll find yourself in a situation where you’re tired of talking things over and just want to get to work. The problem is that you have to get everyone on board. This is why public projects sometimes seem endless.

Lastly, while it’s true that you’ll never get everyone to vote, you should at least make an effort to find the right representation. This will greatly help you actually reach the consensus in question.

4. Apathy and disillusionment

The biggest problem with interpreting the lack of interest in community engagement comes from a scenario where you believe that you’re starting from zero and slowly working your way up. In reality, you’re starting from a significant negative number.

Young people don’t believe in public engagement. A lot of them don’t even vote. This is because they have a deep mistrust of the institutions and believe that their vote doesn’t really matter. The electoral college system (or at least the way it’s interpreted by the general public) doesn’t contribute much either.

The problem with this is that these young people think too big.

When they’re young, everyone wants to change the world, and anything less sounds like settling to them. Having a book unbanned from the local education board’s list, tidying up a local playground, or doing some repairs on the potholes in the road sounds like something trivial and insignificant. The reality is that this is where you can make the biggest difference.

So, the cure for this apathy might just be figuring out how these “small” issues matter.

Wrap up

At the end of the day, it’s so important that you understand the importance of civic engagement, as well as the fact that none of the above-listed problems are new. They are, however, amplified in this new era of transparency and hyper-connectivity. Fortunately, each of these challenges can be overcome once you fully understand them.


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