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Core Values and Beliefs

Effective community engagement facilitation is underpinned by core values and beliefs that set the stage for active participation of group members as they wrestle with difficult issues, identify and evaluate strategies for addressing issue, choose and implement a strategy(ies) to address the issue and finally evaluate the impact of the of the intervention outcomes and effectiveness of the engagement process.

Core values provide the community engagement practitioner with the foundation for an approach and serve as a guide for facilitation. They enable you to craft methods and techniques consistent with the core values and to continually reflect on how well you do in acting congruently with the values.  The skilled community engagement facilitator grounds his or her work based on a set of four core values—valid information, free and informed choice, internal commitment, and compassion—and principles that follow from those values. (Adapted from Argyris and Schön, 1974).

Valid information

means that all information shared and relied upon during the process meets the following criteria:

  • Is comprehensive, reflects all relevant information (and contested views) and is shared among all participants
  • Is presented in a way that is clear and understandable
  • Includes an explanation of how the information was generated and what its source
  • Is specific enough to allow others to confirm its validation

Free and informed choice

refers to participants’ ability to make decisions based on valid information and discussions, not because of pressure or groups dynamics from inside or outside of the group.

Internal commitment

refers to the need to ensure that participant recognizes their responsibility for decisions made by the group and is willing to support the decision.

Compassion

means that the groups work effectively to suspend judgment and to seek to effectively understand others with different views or opinions. When you act with compassion you incorporate the other core values with your intent to understand, empathize with and help others in a way that increases the chance that each person is accountable for his or her behavior.

Taken together, these core values form the foundation for community engagement participants to collaboratively develop a common understanding of the issue or opportunity being addressed and to make decisions or take actions that they support and are committed to see through.

Skilled community engagement practitioners share these core values with community members throughout the engagement process. When you share and discuss the core values underlying your approach to community engagement, the participants can help you improve the engagement process, identifying when they believe you or others are acting inconsistently with the engagement facilitation values. In this way, the core values provide the basis foundation for a collaborative relationship through which facilitators learn with the participants and participants learn together. The core values for facilitating community engagement are also the core values for effective group behavior. When you act consistently with the core values, you are an effective engagement facilitator, and you also model effective behavior to others you are working with.

References:


Argyris, Chris, and Donald A. Schon. "Theory in practice: increasing professional effectiveness." Jossey-Bass, 1974.