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Community engagement is not about 'doing to' the community, but about engaging with and empowering the community. Inherent in the community engagement process is both initial and ongoing involvement of community stakeholders in the decision making processes that constitute collaborative activity (Collins et al. 2007). Engagement occurs with families, the local community, within the organisation, with partner agencies.
Holistic responses require frequent and strategic sharing of information across colleagues, disciplines and partners. Along with engagement, this enables strengths-based approaches that rely on developing an understanding of, and working with, local communities to consider individual and community collective strengths to assist them to address their challenges (Steward et al. 2011).
In your environment, is communication and engagement an enabler of integrated early childhood development?
Is the local community understood? How do you know?
How do you ensure families and children are the focus of service planning and service delivery? Do you seek their feedback on programs and services? Do they provide input into planning their support?
Are services responsive to local needs? How is local participation encouraged and supported?
How are the organisation's vision and goals communicated throughout the organisation, with partner agencies and to users of the service?
The questions below explore how communication and engagement enables the service delivery elements of the model.
How do you ensure universal services are welcoming to the whole community?
Are local cultures and languages represented in communication materials and service atmosphere, e.g. art-work?
How do you engage with diverse cultural groups in the community to encourage participation? Have you developed a good understanding of their needs? Read example showhide
All of the Early Years Centres hold 'Community Days' and events in local parks to bring staff and partner organisations together and promote services in the community. Fun activities are open to all and draw families from across the community. They also try to employ staff who represent local community cultures as much as possible.
Do staff and partners engage with families and recognise when more targeted or intensive services may be needed? Are there information sharing channels to facilitate this?
Different professional disciplines have different meanings for similar phrases. How does the organisation establish shared definitions for commonly used words across the multiple disciplines? Consider for example: play, child, child-centred, parent, parenting, strengths-based, holistic.
Do these commonly used words have the same meaning in the community? Do you discuss the differences?
Is communication across disciplines respectful and built on trusting relationships?
Do forums exist locally to bring together staff from across organisations and sectors to share knowledge, expertise and evidence-based practices? Read example showhide
A group of Child and Family Support Hubs have formed their own local hub network. Hub coordinators from Maryborough, Gympie, Hervey Bay and Childers meet quarterly, along with other colleagues, to discuss common issues and develop solutions. Recognising a common need to work more closely with school principals, the group is now working together on strategies to achieve this.
Are successes and challenges communicated across staff and partners?
How do partnership arrangements engage children, families and the community?
Are resources for families and communities shared across partner organisations? For example, toy libraries?
Are partners, children, families and local community leaders engaged in service planning, decision-making and priority-setting? How could this approach be improved?
How are multiple service access points, like outreach or mobile services, promoted in the community?
How do staff build inclusion and cultural awareness and continuously seek to improve engagement of diversity?
What are the diverse groups in the community? How do you engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, culturally and linguistically diverse families, newly arrived migrants and refugees, other vulnerable population groups? (Prichard et al. 2010)
Next: Useful resources
This page was last reviewed on 21 Aug 2013