What is community engagement?
Simply put, community engagement is an initiative by its members to create a positive social change. It is the partnership between members of the community through their involvement with the planning and decision-making processes. They are able to express their opinions and exchange new information that would be helpful to others. This engagement is very hands-on ranging from community council meetings, parent involvement with academic initiatives, youth organization events and programs, as well as environmental initiatives.
Since, the idea of a ‘community’ is inclusive of all members, their engagement provides perspective. If ones opinion differ from popular opinion, creating a balanced understanding through conversation can add layers to the decision-making process.
With developing communities, it is important to encourage and educate the next generation. Allowing younger members the opportunity to voice their opinions and share new information, tends to offer a new perspective that may have been previously overlooked.
Most often, we look to our youth as the leaders of tomorrow. They are members of our communities who actively participate, explore, and engage in its development. Dedicating their time and talents to produce a positive impact is a fundamental pillar of what defines youth community engagement. Their involvement provides a space to recognize their personal abilities by helping improve upon the conditions and challenges that directly impact their everyday lives. It can also increase the amount of empowerment for themselves and members of their community.
To keep up their desire to be involved in their communities, youth need to be educated by methods not commonly found in a classroom. By using programs, technologies, and focusing on topics young people hold a passion for, the youth can become more aware of the issues affecting their community. Taking advantage of communication tools such as social media platforms, will allow them to be more hands-on with bringing awareness to the community cause. Youth are more likely to be involved in fundraising initiatives such as sport tournaments, selling desserts and beverages, or creative arts showcases. These initiatives create the opportunity for youth to be able to showcase their unique abilities and use their social medias to share this information with peers from other communities. Empowering youth to be apart of the discussion is another great way to get them engaged in the community. They would be more likely to provide their input if they feel it will be a valuable contribution to the discussion. Not only do they gain a stronger sense of self-efficacy and confidence, but they also build stronger connections through their sense of belonging and relationship built with older members.
With information be shared and relationships being built, community members are building lasting traditions that can be practiced long term. For example, community sweep days, clothing or food drives, holiday sports tournaments, summer cooking parties, and various other ideas can help strengthen the connection and pride community members share.
Having youth and adults working together to produce meaningful results for the community is what a true community is all about. If you are considering making an impact in a positive way in your local community, establishing a partnership with other members of your community is a chance for you to co lead instead of sitting quietly to the side, as well as further engage by providing frequent and thoughtful contributions.