Phase II: Getting Started
Laying the Foundation for Productive Partnership
The early stages of engagement with a community present an opportunity to meet community stakeholders, establish trust and credibility, validate concerns, set expectations, and lay the foundation for productive partnerships. In the beginning your first communications with the community are informed by the work you’ve already done to objectively develop a community profile and identify local stakeholders. In Phase II, it is important to
- Go to the community and meet with residents and local stakeholders,
- Assess community environmental health needs, and,
- Make no assumptions about the community’s needs- ask, dialogue, and learn.
When conducting engagement in a community for the first time, focus on listening to community concerns and preferences, building relationships, and setting expectations for what ATSDR can and cannot do.
- What did you learn from the community profile that will guide your engagement?
- What else is needed to effectively engage communities?
- How will you set and maintain expectations for what ATSDR can and cannot do?
- How will you address the community’s concerns?
- How will you clarify the roles of ATSDR and those of other stakeholders?
As you prepare to engage with a community, be aware of past community engagement and public health work and their respective legacies, including work ATSDR was not involved in. Some communities may have worked with, or are currently working with, other federal, state, or local agencies and may be further along in receiving support to address their concerns. Other communities may just be starting. Keep in mind there may be some trust and credibility issues or prior communication challenges to overcome. On the other hand, a community’s positive interactions in the past may pave the way for smoother relationships in the present.
Possible Community Engagement Activities: