Many establishments fail to have authentic community engagements, which can lead to issues down the road. Remaining fair to everyone in the community and establishing trust requires community engagement that is real and can last long-term. If you want to change your approach, there are a few essential steps to take.
Maintain Sustained Conversation
Maintaining a long-term conversation that is sustained is necessary throughout the year to build relationships and allow engagement to go deeper over time. Making it a point to continue to have conversations will make it easier to understand the other party and make decisions based on what is learned.
Hearing Directly From the Community Members
It’s important to recognize that speaking to community leaders doesn’t mean that you’ll hear what the community members are actually thinking or saying. It can be challenging to get accurate information if you do not hear directly from those in the community to ensure that their input is represented correctly. Obtaining multiple group interviews is necessary to have a broader perspective instead of only hearing from one group of people in the area. Avoid viewing community members as a substitute for community members when creating authentic community engagement that is genuine.
Promote Equal Power
It’s necessary to be intentional by creating equal power among different groups of people in the community to ensure that everyone feels welcomed to share their opinion and have a voice. Using terms that include “high- and low-opportunity areas” can be offensive and will prevent them from sharing their input or having respect.
Address the History
By acknowledging racism in history and racism that has occurred in the area, it will work to bridge the gap that is present in understanding others’ experiences. There should be different conversations about racism and how it has harmed the community, which can create change and will make it easier to move forward. Training is necessary and will prove to be useful, making it essential that it’s a requirement.
Offer Resources to Community Organizations
One of the many mistakes that are often made is offering resources to outside consultants rather than to the community. Provide more resources to those that you’ve developed relationships with to ensure that they obtain what they need and can value what is offered to them.