This paper seeks to analyze the role and relationship of ‘community engagement’ to society. The analysis provides different strategies in enhancing community engagement within the society.
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Apart from providing a fixed approach in viewing community engagement, it also provides a flexible approach that aims to understand community engagement as a solution to ethical problems associated with spin or propaganda.
Along with explaining what entails community engagement, the concept shall also be supported by various theories in playing its role and responsibility to the society.
Community engagement is the major concern of strong economic and social transformation in the society. The involvement of community engagement has ensured development of an effective and sustainable environment – a concept that has led to the solution of ethical problems associated with ‘spin’, or rather scheming tactics.
The strong connection ensured has also resulted to a greater influence to those who formulate and implement policies that govern the society. Community engagement examines the developmental and implementation of key principles within the society and the processes that are fundamental to community participation.
In addition, such familiarity among the societal members has resulted to a relationship formation: a social justice structures and communication awareness in the society.
Addressing ethical issues within the community may be impossible, and therefore there is need to have guidelines or programs to undertake such functions.
In enlightening the society, the educated have resolved to use different ways and projects that are compatible with the type of society, which such issues are addressed. Creating developmental programs within the institutions and community-based programs are the feasible methods applied in the realization of community participation.
Therefore, the society has developed an understanding on importance of the community engagement, aimed at creating a difference in their lives. Moreover, theories such as ethical theory, citizenship theory, stakeholder theory and democratic theory will help explain how community engagement is linked to the ethical issues associated with change.
The Role and Relationship of ‘Community Engagement’ to Society
Community Engagement is a keystone for effective public health practice. It represents the methods of ethical communication that are in building capabilities among individuals in the society, in a way to encourage participation and association in political debate.
Community participation enhances knowledge and ability in the society, and this is an essential aspect towards the wellbeing of the society. In a wider perspective, engagement within a society implies that people are able to use their own resources and knowledge to formulate and implement policies that can solve ethical problems (Sarkissian et al., 2009).
Community commitment can also incorporate trust, communication, and association. Therefore, a successful community engagement leads to activities and strategies that depict the desire, the requirements, and the resources that are reasonable to the entire community.
Alongside the community engagement being involved traditional risk reduction activities; it also plays a vital role in improving the health care of the society at large.
As it has recently been noted by the institute of medicine(IOM) if there is possible which could eliminate the social problems that the community is experiencing at the present time, it will only be through building better relationships with communities and therefore derive from the communities assessments of their need s and priorities (CDC, 1997).
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Community engagement tries to harmonize the community regardless of the status in the society, and it does this by bringing people to the table – both the community members and the elites. They both put down their differences and focus on one issue, and therefore such an engagement will help in nurturing their participation in all the aspects of decision –making process.
Such participation is said to be “constructive citizen participation”, an orderly process that enable all people in the community to share their ideas towards a common goal. In the process of generating a favorable environment, strengths and values of the community provide a platform for independence through knowledge. In addition, the members of the society are respected with equality.
In the process of generating the right decisions that the society should assume in leading a desirable life, there is a need for the participants to borrow a leaf from what composes the ethical theory. In this case, there is a need to explain what an ethical theory composes.
An ethical theory is the foundation of ethical analysis since according to the viewpoints generated from the theory; it offers guidance along the pathway to making a decision. The theory emphasizes on different points alongside giving predicting on the outcomes that may be expected out of one’s duties to others in reaching out to an ethically correct decision (Superstone, 2009).
In a broader perspective, ethical theory is aimed at guiding the community in doing what is good, at the least possible harm and also giving people an opportunity to make decisions on their own as they are the ones who entirely know what they really require in life.
This is also endorsed by the Utilitarian ethical theory, which is established on the ability to predict on the consequences of an action.
According to Utilitarian, the choice that relent the greatest benefit to most of the people is a decision that is ethically correct. Ethical theory therefore strongly supports the aspect of community engagement if only it is established on a common goal of bringing forth a successful society.
Citizenship theory is an increasingly essential focus when analyzing the concept of community engagement. Citizenship mainly focuses in political and social theory as well as in philosophy, legal studies, and touches on some of the humanities. The theory has also a vital concern on the kind of life that is lived in the society.
It mainly figures out on the way justice is outsourced in the society, that is, in terms of denial of rights, the economic benefits and also on the social services.
Though it focuses on this and many more issues all in the name of generating quality decisions towards the community, it’s a theory that does not guarantee on equality, fairness, justice, economic status of the citizens, dignity and the respect of each other in the society.
Such and others are some of the problems that have re-emerged in trying to harmonize the concept of community engagement within the society. This has not only affected the political affiliation of people in the society but also their sociology.
Citizenship theory therefore supports the concept of community engagement in the sense in tries to bring people together and develops a healthy relationship among the citizens (Goldlust, 1996).
Stakeholder theory explains the importance of essential aspects in support of the roles and responsibilities associated with community engagement, and to the overall understanding of the concept.
In this case, the stakeholders are necessary within the community as they can find a solution for the community, which in turn will be used to trigger some thought and action. It is therefore from the stakeholders that one would be in a better position to learn about the community engagement.
This can somehow explain some issues concerning the community and help in strengthening the community bonds in an informed and respectful ways. However, this theory does not provide the ways and methods that ought to be used by the experts in bringing people together, and how the success ought to be achieved (Vandenberg, 2000).
Stakeholder theory somehow solves the ethical problems associated with spin. This is because when stakeholders engage in various activities in the society, they are able to understand the various values accepted by people, and therefore work towards developing sustainable communities.
To understand the idea behind community engagement, it is worth noting the notion behind the theoretical provenance. In essence, community engagement, to an extent, is linked to the citizenship theory and its various models such as equality.
In this case, democratic models are also essential and vital to the understanding of community engagement. Democracy may therefore be used to mean ‘freely and frequently’. Moreover, it may also mean practicing fairness and justice, or in other words – “rule by the people”.
The citizens may also establish the idea of democracy on the fact of direct participation. This would also refer to a situation where citizens play an imperative role towards the state. This can however be a difficult task to achieve in situations where the society is large (Gastil and Levine, 2005).
Representative democracy is another model of democracy that ought to be playing a pivotal role in enhancing community engagement in the society. This concept seeks to address the fact that the cities are too big to apply the concept of direct democracy.
This would mean that the decisions that are implemented in the society and the problems linked to them are not associated to the community, but by the members who are elected to represent the entire society. Additionally, deliberative democracy is a model in support of the roles played by community engagement to the society.
This aspect expands on the concept of democracy as a form of ‘government ruled by many people, and accentuates on communication as inherent in the making decisions within a political aspect.
Deliberative democracy would therefore outsource the idea of community engagement as a measure of quality decision making and as a tool for effective communication within the society (Sarkissian et al., 2009).
Therefore, the concept of community engagement is determined by how stakeholders such as non-governmental organizations, social groups, governments, and business organizations can decide on important issues surrounding them.
Is “Community Engagement” a solution to ethical problems?
From the above explanation, people need to be free to select the best solution in solving ethical problems. Democracy enables the community to participate in developmental programs without fear. People can present their views on how their leaders operate and on the pressing issues within the society. In doing so, the community becomes enlightened and thus, avoids problems associated with spin.
The community may not always be able to harmonize their ideas and build an outstanding relationship, a problem that may be generated by the environment. Theory sometimes becomes hard to fulfill since some things cannot be thought, but may be difficult to do them practically.
In this case, the roles and responsibilities played by community engagement may not be sensible to the entire society since some aspects might demand a lot from the community and therefore such issues are assumed. To an extent, community engagement may not be a better parameter or a measure towards solving ethical problems.
Ethics as discussed in the ethical theory is at times too philosophical and religious – an aspect that may not be conversant to every person in the society. Therefore, saying that community engagement may solve ethical problems in the society can be a little bit biased.
Some issues within the society do not require a process in generating a decision but rather an instant solution. In this juncture, the society thus goes against the Utilitarian theory, which bases most of its arguments on fairness and equality.
Is community engagement a solution to the ethical problems associated with Spin?
The term Spin is a concept or a form of propaganda that is achieved through providing an interpretation about an event in order to gain favor from the public against an organization or a person which or who might be viewed as a public figure.
Therefore, a person manipulates an issue in order to support him or herself. On the other hand, he or she might be defaming the name of the other person or thing in order for the public to have a negative feeling towards the other individual.
In other words, the term spin might imply dishonesty, deception since in most of the times it is done in fulfillment of one’s interest. As mentioned in the discussion not all aspects in the society that ought to be solved in an ethical manner since some might cause commotions or chaos in the society.
In the United States, the public affairs that deal with the military contacts during the commencement of the war against Iraq used a spin tactic. In this case, several military wanted to high public relations firms to send out misleading information for the public to support them to begin the war.
Some officers did not want to join hand since this reduced military’s credibility. The type of spin used here was to blow up some certain circumstances in the public that would be seen viable and thus, the public would heartedly see the need of the war.
However, the war could solve very many issues in America and stop the Iraq from attacking the nation, but that is unethical. The nation could use another method to stop the attacks, for instance bar them from any trade affairs.
On the other hand, the country is justified to fight back. Considering this, one cannot conclusively say that community engagement can be a solution towards the ethical problems associated with spin.
The above discussion has affirmed that various examples have been brought since the concept of ‘community engagement’ emerged, all in the name of addressing issues of inequity and injustice. Indeed, community engagement is now a key player in the struggle against drawbacks in the society.
Improving community engagement within the concept of business strategies, policies, and in various societal sectors has resulted to the transition of education sector to become committed to community service as one of the community engagement aspect.
However, such a transition is still underway, but it also requires some support from the society. It is also very vital to note that the partakers in the community development affairs have a long way to go before stemming such aspects in the minds of people.
Therefore, the knowledge acquired from the service learning programs, besides theories used in support of this concept, has provided a force for this transition in implementation of community engagement.
Furthermore, the collaborative and development of effective and sustainable commonness within the society strengthens the role and responsibilities played by community engagement, which strives to solve ethical problems associated with spin.
Through the discussed theories (stakeholder, democratic, and citizenship), it can be established that critical relevance of community engagement is that the society brings a great difference in people’s lives. Moreover, such an insight has also resulted to providing various ideas in the organizational structures needed for an effective community engagement.
In essence, it is very critical for the society to provide structures, and a favorable environment that will enable community engagement to take effect to overcome the society’s problems and transform the society into a better place.
Alasdair, R. S. 2005. “Spin Control and Freedom of Information: Lessons for the United Kingdom from Canada”. Public Administration, 83: 1.
CDC., 1997. Principles of Community Engagement. Atlanta, GA: Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. [online] Available at: <https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/communityengagement/pdf/PCE_Report_508_FINAL.pdf> .
Gastil, J. and Levine, P., 2005. The deliberative democracy and handbook: strategies for effective civil engagement in the twenty first centuries, San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.
Goldlust, J.,1996. Understanding citizenship in Australia, Bureau of immigration, multicultural and population research. London: Australian Government Publishing service.
Sarkissian, W., Hofer, N., Shore, Y, Vajda, S. and Wilkinson, C., 2009. Kitchen stable sustainability: practical recipes for community engagement with sustainability. Earthscan: London.
Superstone, A., 2009. The Moral Skeptic. New York: Oxford University Press.
Vandenberg, A., 2000. Citizenship and democracy in a global era. London: St Martins Press.