Taking the time to carefully define the issue for community engagement is critical to your long-term engagement success. While there are few ‘magic formulas’, it’s important to make the appropriate distinction between the problem and its root causes.

How this plays out in your community's discussions and engagement processes, of course, will depend on a wide range of community-context and issue related concerns, as well as the goals of your engagement efforts.

It is often helpful either early on, or in collaboration with community members, to assess the appropriate focal point for your discussions. For examples, if you are seeking to address reducing the percentage of teenage pregnancies, it might be worthwhile to investigate the role of poverty. Similarly, if you are interested in studying the crop damage caused by a particular species of invasive animals, it might be valuable to research the lack of landowner participation in control programs. There are a number of approaches to help you accomplish this task with the groups you are working with (NCDD, 2010).


"Resource Guide on Public Engagement." National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD), 2010.