But trust is broken, particularly between neighbors in marginalized communities and institutions that have the power to make decisions about our lives. Broken trust is a challenge, and opportunity, for those doing community engagement work.
One of the goals of the Connect stage is to develop trust among neighbors and a sense of collective efficacy, or the ability to work together toward a common goal. During this stage, community organizers become a consistent and trustworthy presence in people’s lives. They organize in ways that bring neighbors on the steering committee and working groups closer together. And they equip neighbors to make collective decisions about the issues they’ve identified in their community.
A central tenet of our community engagement model is that people who are directly impacted by the issues should own the solutions. In this stage, we describe our approach to engagement, which moves neighbors from involvement (i.e. participation in a survey) toward ownership (i.e., making decisions about their community). Community engagement involves allies and key decision-makers as well —people who decide things, usually from a position of power within an organization or institution. In this stage, we describe how to identify allies and key decision-makers and build strategic networks of people who can engage with neighbors to realize their vision for their community.