Community Engagement: What Is It?

  • Melissa Nursey-BrayEmail author


Deep and real community engagement is critical for placemaking and can take an array of forms. The process requires a continuum of activation and focusses on the higher levels of participation such as empowerment and true involvement. This chapter presents the process of community engagement in the context of placemaking and covers who the users or communities are, the process and products arising from community engagement and how to ensure the place remains activated and relevant via continuous evaluation. The chapter presents citizen science, an engagement process particularly suited to placemaking. How to navigate conflict and engage different cultures is also discussed. The chapter presents an overview of engagement practice for placemaking and offers insights into how to create effective places, independent of its setting.


Community engagement Public participation Placemaking 


  1. Aristeidou, A., Scanlon, E., & Sharples, M. (2017). Profiles of engagement in online communities of citizen science participation. Computers Human Behaviour, 74, 246–256.Google Scholar
  2. Arnstein, S. R. (1965). A ladder of citizen participation. Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 35(4), 216–224. Scholar
  3. Bakke, E. (2010). A model and measure of mobile communication competence. Human Communication Research, 36, 348–371. © 2010 International Communication Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barr, S. (2011). Climate forums: Virtual discourses on climate change and the sustainable lifestyle (Report). Area, 43(1), 14–22.Google Scholar
  5. Bartle, P. (n.d.). What is community? A sociological perspective. Retrieved from
  6. Brushwood-Rose, C. (2016). The subjective spaces of social engagement: Cultivating creative living through community-based digital storytelling. Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, 21, 386–402. Published online 29 October 2015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burton, P., Goodlad, R., & Croft, J. (2006). How would we know what works? Context and complexity in the evaluation of community involvement. Evaluation, 12(3), 294–312.Google Scholar
  8. Cavaye, J. M. (2004). Governance and community engagement—The Australian experience. In W. R. Lovan, M. Murray, & R. Shaffer (Eds.), Participatory governance: Planning, conflict mediation and public decision making in civil society (pp. 85–102). Hants, UK: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  9. Cohen, A. P. (1985). Symbolic construction of community. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Cundill, G. N. R., Fabricius, C., & Marti, N. (2005). Foghorns to the future: Using knowledge and transdisciplinarity to navigate complex systems. Ecology and Society, 10(2), 8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dare, M., Schirmer, J., & Vanclay, F. (2008). A brief guide to effective community engagement in the Australian plantation sector. Hobart: Cooperative Research Centre for Forestry. Retrieved from
  12. De Leiuen, C., & Arthure, S. (2016). Collaboration on whose terms? Using the IAP2 community engagement model for archaeology in Kapunda, South Australia. Journal of Community Archaeology & Heritage, 3(2), 81–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Deuze, M., Bank, P., & Speers, L. (2012). A life lived in media. Digital Humanities Quarterly, 6(1). Retrieved from
  14. de Weger, E. J., Van Vooren, N., Luijkx, K. G., Baan, C. A., & Drewes, H. W. (2018). Achieving successful community engagement: A rapid realist review. BMC Health Services Research, 18(1), 285. Scholar
  15. Follett, R., & Strezov, V. (2015). An analysis of citizen science based research: Usage and publication patterns. PLoS One, 10(11), 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Head, B. (2007). Community engagement: Participation on whose terms? Australian Journal of Political Science, 42(3), 441–454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hespanhol, L., Parker, C., Zhou, D., & Tomitsch, M. (2018). Blending pop-up urbanism and participatory technologies: Challenges and opportunities for inclusive city making. City, Culture and Society, 12, 44–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jennett, C., Eveleigh, A., Mathieu, K., Ajani, Z., & Cox, A. (2013, May 2–4). Creativity in citizen cyber-science: All for one and one for all. WebSci’13, Paris, France.Google Scholar
  19. Johnson, A. G. (1986). Human arrangements. Orlando: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers.Google Scholar
  20. Koehler, B., & Koontz, T. M. (2008). Citizen participation in collaborative watershed partnerships. Environmental Management, 41, 143–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Laws, D., Hogendorn, D., & Karl, H. (2014). Hot adaptation: What conflict can contribute to collaborative natural resource management. Ecology and Society, 19(2), 39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lee, D., & Newby, H. (1983). The problem of sociology: An introduction to the discipline. London: Hutchinson Education.Google Scholar
  23. McAteer, B. (2018). Citizen science as a means of democratizing urban environments. Retrieved from Accessed 25 Feb 2019.
  24. McDonald, L., Hickey, A., & Reynolds, P. (2016). Discerning the air: Locating local government community engagement practice—Reflections on selected Australian experience. Asia Pacific Journal of Public Administration, 38(3), 154–167. Scholar
  25. Morris, R. (2012). Community engagement in rural-remote and Indigenous local government in Australia. Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government, University of Technology, Sydney.Google Scholar
  26. Mullen, K. C., Newman, G., & Thompson, J. L. (2013). Facilitating the development and evaluation of a citizen science website: A case study of repeat photography and climate change in southwest Alaska’s national parks. Applied Environmental Education & Communication, 12(4), 261–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nursey-Bray, M. (2017). Towards socially just adaptive climate governance: The transformative potential of conflict. Local Environment, 22(2), 156–171. Scholar
  28. Olsson, P., Folke, C., & Berkes, F. (2004). Adaptive co-management for building social-ecological resilience. Environmental Management, 34, 75–90. Scholar
  29. Phadke, R., Manning, C., & Burlager, S. (2015). Making it personal: Diversity and deliberation in climate adaptation planning. Climate Risk Management, 9(C), 62–76.Google Scholar
  30. Reddel, T., & Woolcock, G. (2004). From consultation to participatory governance? A critical review of citizen engagement strategies in Queensland. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 63(3), 75–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Scruby, L., Canales, M., Ferguson, E., & Gregory, D. (2017). Promoting face-to-face dialogue for community engagement in a digital age. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research, 49(4), 170–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Silvertown, J. (2009). A new dawn for citizen science. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 24(9), 467–471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Thiel, M., Penna-Díaz, M. A., Luna-Jorquera, G., Salas, S., Sellanes, J., & Stotz, W. (2014). Citizen scientists and marine research: Volunteer participants, their contributions, and projection for the future. Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review, 52, 257–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Tomitsch, M., & Haeusler, M. (2015). Infostructures: Towards a complementary approach for solving urban challenges through digital technologies. Journal of Urban Technology, 22(3), 37–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Verhagen, T., Swen, E., Feldberg, F., & Merikivi, J. (2015). Benefiting from virtual customer environments: An empirical study of customer engagement. Computers Human Behavior, 48, 340–357.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geography, Environment and PopulationUniversity of AdelaideNorth TerraceAustralia

Personalised recommendations