7. Inclusive community engagement

//7. Inclusive community engagement

7. Inclusive community engagement

Recommendation: Foster meaningful inclusive community engagement in approaches to promote the triple-win

Engaging communities in actions for social and environmental sustainability helps to build trust between public authorities and communities and ensure that actions are locally relevant and supported. Involving people across different groups (age, gender, ethnic, socio-economic) in a meaningful way in planning, developing and maintaining initiatives provides them with a vested interest in the success of these initiatives and encourages their active use and acceptance, fostering a sense of ownership and ensuring that policies and actions are people-centered and reflect local needs. This sense of ownership and involvement also makes people feel engaged, empowered and in control, which is important to subjective well-being. It also helps to develop and new narrative and move away from the idea that sustainability is an “elitist” political agenda, instead demonstrating that local communities are crucial to bringing about transformative action from the bottom-up, and that this action impacts everyday lives, helping to improving people’s health and wellbeing and reduce inequalities. The analyses of many INHERIT case studies reflect that community engagement was an important component of their success.[1]

Voices from INHERIT

What was nice was the cooperation with residents.

Place Standard, Riga

From our side, we see that it becomes better when you engage residents and strengthen a common sense of ownership.

Restructuring Residential Areas, Sweden

What also helped, people saw their input back in the design. What I contribute, something is also done with it.

Restructuring Green Space, The Netherlands

Do not look at citizens as opponents, and problems should be resolved and resolutions sought in common effort.

Place Standard, Macedonia

What can be done? Insights from INHERIT

Across policy levels   EU level

Whilst it is true that the value of community engagement is often clear, the process can be difficult. One of the most challenging elements of community engagement is that the kind of engagement needed may differ per situation and that no one-size-fits-all. The following recommendations are thus not prescriptive, but offer suggestions. Above all, it is important to give community engagement a chance, remain flexible, not to force things, take time and be patient.

  • Communicate clearly and openly, for instance by:
    • ensuring that the approach itself is transparent, explaining how co-creation makes a difference and why it fosters ownership;
    • providing clarity about expectations, interests and possibilities;
    • presenting discussion outcomes, fostering shared understanding of challenges.
  • Ensure the right conditions, for instance by:
    • allowing time to build trust and ownership;
    • bringing in a neutral manager/mediator to facilitate the process, who is trusted by all parties;
    • creating a positive atmosphere;
    • allowing the process to flourish rather than seeking to control it.
  • Provide different engagement opportunities that are appropriate to communities’ readiness to engage – for instance, regular monthly events.
  • Engage target groups from the inception in defining problems and designing solutions, giving them a fair, balanced perspective and then letting them deliberate upon it.
  • A genuine, meaningful conversation almost always leads to people finding common ground. However, it is important to be aware that local needs may differ from policymakers’ aims and professional agendas, and to give support to ideas created by communities themselves.
  • Involve communities in identifying potential impacts (positive and negative) that can guide aspects of implementation and planned evaluation, for instance in establishing which indicators to evaluate.
  • Remain in contact with citizens once the initiative is done (Restructuring Green Space)
  • Monitor the use/acceptance of initiatives after they have been implemented.
  • Make sure that engaged participants represent a broad cross-section of the community, and that different community members are involved as understanding of the challenges develops.
  • Use facilitation tools and techniques that encourage active contributions from all participants, including representatives of vulnerable groups.
  • Involve someone with the same linguistic and cultural background as the target group, for instance when engaging with refugees.
  • Educate for engagement and participation from an early age.
  • Provide a welcoming environment in meetings and venues.
  • Create a brand identity to raise the profile of initiatives.
  • Help inform people on how to become involved (through local campaigns, news coverage, events, etc.).
  • Where needed, develop capacities, knowledge, and skills of all participants. Support key volunteers by developing infrastructures that facilitate capacity-building through knowledge exchange (e.g., recording and distributing training, developing online courses, replicating existing teaching programmes for volunteers). Experiences from INHERIT show that training that helps volunteers develop transferable life skills is beneficial.[2]
  • Acknowledge engaged communities and look into possibilities of offering key volunteers greater recognition and more official roles (engagement can vary from attending meetings to volunteering labour).
  • Where possible, build on community assets to foster capacity-building and training, engaging neighbours in sharing learnings.

  • Build community participation as intrinsic to design, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation frameworks for EU processes, including the European Semester process, the European Green Deal, the prospective Implementation Action Plan of the European Pillar of Social Rights, ESF+, the EU Cohesion and Structural Funds and other relevant EU research, funding programmes and Common Provision Regulations.
  • Develop meaningful cross-sectoral community and civil society participation in decision-making and agenda-setting processes at EU and UN agency levels, including towards the Sustainable Development Goals, and EU Platforms informing programmes towards sustainable equity and health across all policies.
  • Support capacity-building for community participation at all levels of governance, particularly in areas with less experience with engagement or where this may be shrinking. Ensure this includes digital and specific literacy for engagement in health, sustainable development and social equity, training or vocational support to empower, underpin and sustain participation, and infrastructures (physical and virtual) to enable effective and equitable transparency, access and engagement.


INHERIT triple-win case studies

More information on the INHERIT case studies can be found in the Annex: triple-win case studies

Place Standard

A simple framework to enable people to think about and discuss, in a methodical way, the place in which they live. The Mayor’s support was crucial in implementing the initiative in Skopje.

Restructuring Residential Outdoor Areas

Initiative to restructure a courtyard in a low-income neighbourhood in Stockholm. Engaging the community was challenging.


Development of peer-to-peer training about household energy saving and waste disposal strategies among refugees in the city of Pforzheim, Germany. Evaluation results highlight the need for sensitivity to take into account educational and language barriers, and the necessity for innovative evaluation methods taking into account the specific characteristics of the target group (such as unstable residency status).

Thinking Fadura and Malvik Path

Green space initiatives co-created with residents. They have witnessed increases in the numbers of visitors, and are assessed as economically beneficial in cost benefit analyses.

Restructuring Green Space

Initiative to co-restructure a green space in a low-income neighbourhood in Breda, with active municipality support. The space is increasingly used by residents.

Additional Reading from INHERIT

INHERIT Policy Brief #2

Putting health equity at the heart of sustainable transitions. November 2019. EuroHealthNet: Brussels.

National policy roundtable (North Macedonia)

National-level policy roundtable (2019) Institute of Public Health, Republic of North Macedonia Health in our urban policies – How healthy are our cities? Academy of Sciences and Arts of the Republic of North Macedonia: Skopje.

Policy roundtable (UK)

National-level INHERIT Policy Roundtable report (2019) Urban Open Spaces: enabling activities to maximise positive impacts on environmental sustainability, health and equity. UCL: London.

Article: the STOEMP network in Ghent

Vos, M., Romeo-Velilla, M., Stegeman, I., et al. (submitted) Qualitative evaluation of the STOEMP network in Ghent: an intersectoral approach to make healthy and sustainable food available to all.

2020-02-11T14:54:57+01:00November 26, 2019|Keys themes|Comments Off on 7. Inclusive community engagement