Navigating Community Engagement
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What it is about community involvement that attracts some professionals to adopt ways of working that embrace the community members as partners? Which aspects make community work rewarding for a professional, and more importantly, successful from a community member’s perspective? The theoretical constructs—community engagement, capacity building, and community empowerment—will be discussed in order to demonstrate how theory and practice are relevant to the development of ways to be involved in communities. A framework that we consider is of value has evolved that enables us to map or describe the attributes of community based projects; that is, an approach which aims to move beyond simply bringing people together from a variety of disciplines, to one which is transdisciplinary and applicable across cultures and genres of projects. Although a transdisciplinary approach is not new in itself, by making it explicit as an aspiration, we highlight the possible limitation of those projects that only bring together differing contributors at core moments for their expertise, without reflecting or planning for the potentially new ways of conceptualizing and of actioning what needs to be done. Such interactions are discussed in relation to participation and engagement. By constructing a project as transdisciplinary, all people—including the community—are ongoing contributors, who are able to wander into others’ discipline-specific arenas and vice versa.
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