57 Community Engagement and Collaboration | CONTINUUM OF ENGAGEMENT

When considering the role of community in community-engaged research and other KMb efforts, it is common to present the various options as spectrums of involvement. For example, in this article Attygalle 31 presents a spectrum from more (Community Owned) to less (Community Informed) community involvement as well as associated benefits, risks, conditions, power, roles, ways of working, and methods of engagement.

Likewise, Rosa Gonzalez32 represents this continuum as one that ranges from no community engagement (i.e. marginalization) through to full community engagement (i.e. community ownership) and provides an associated spectrum of goals, activities, and other important considerations to facilitate equitable decision-making in this resource.

By comparison, in Chapter One of Principles of Engagement, ATSDR presents a model that moves from community outreach through to shared leadership, highlighting related levels of impact, trust, and communication flow.

Like other models in the area, these draw from the Spectrum of Public Participation developed by the International Association for Public Participation, also known as the IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation, which distinguishes various goals of community engagement initiatives (i.e. from inform through to empower) and related levels of community authority (i.e. from less to more community involvement).

Before moving on, check out this video that provides a very brief summary of each of these five levels of engagement, which are framed in terms of levels of participation:


Levels of Participation from Lynne Cazaly on Vimeo.


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Another relevant resource is the work of Arnstein (1969) that outlines the ladder of engagement. Arnstein, S. R. (1969). A ladder of citizen participation. J Am Inst Planners 35 (4): 216-224.

Whether presented as community empowerment, shared leadership, or community ownership, each of these continua make clear that our engagement goals and methods are inextricably linked. At the same time, each of these models represent community engagement in relation to degrees of control over process (e.g. decision making) and diversity of members (e.g. inclusion of people with direct, lived knowledge about the issues at hand). We return to considerations related to power, equity, diversity, and inclusion in a later section of this module. Before that, let’s now consider in more depth the pivotal roles of community members within CEnR and KMb work.

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