Across Australia and the world, governments, industry bodies and community members are struggling to tackle serious and
complex environmental and social issues. Growing economic inequality, increasing population pressure and the unpredictable
impacts of climate change are all issues that have both global and local dimensions.
Policy interventions are often based on assumptions of both scientific and social values. However, when faced with difficult decisions in complex contexts, better decisions and more effective action are likely to result from combining specialised knowledge with community values and local knowledge.
This recognition has led to calls for increased community engagement, as policy makers and practitioners realise that incorporating community values into decisions can increase the likelihood of community acceptance and community-led action.
Effective community engagement seeks to engage a broad range of stakeholders to achieve long-term and sustainable outcomes to complex problems. Community engagement efforts come in many shapes and sizes and may be designed to meet
a number of goals. Many efforts seek to build social capital and strengthen community relationships and trust. Others are designed to address specific challenges or issues, by unlocking the social resources that emerge when individual citizens think and act collectively.
Regardless of the issue under consideration, the practice of community engagement is a growing one. This handbook brings together key theories and practices of community engagement to assist practitioners develop their own engagement plans, put them into practice and learn how to improve through evaluation of these efforts. The handbook also encourages practitioners to develop the skill of ‘reflective learning’ and a range of ‘practice tips’ are identified throughout to strengthen this practice.Last updated: January 31, 2018