The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Monday 13 May 2013

When Community Engagement Slips A Gear

For quarter of a century from the 1970s onwards many local governments in the UK, Australasia and other parts of the Western world employed Community Development workers because community development was thought to be a means of dealing with some of the social ills.

Around the end of the 20th Century a new methodology began to be incorporated into the way in which local governments and other agencies worked with communities; Public Participation, also known as Community Engagement.  It was the “new kid on the block” and local governments shed Community Development advisors and sections in favour of Community Engagement officers and teams.

A recent post on Facebook by a friend in Scotland reminded me just how easily Community Engagement can be ignored or misused.  And, why Community Engagement is insufficient.

The city of Edinburgh recently invited citizens to comment on draft proposals for Leith Walk.  Hundreds of them took part in the consultations.  Initially the Council indicated that it was “delighted with the quality of feedback received…”  One Councillor said that “we had some very useful feedback…” and noted that people wanted better accommodation for cyclists and pedestrians in the plan.  It all sounded very encouraging.

But it was not to be.  First, the Council was reluctant to publish the consultation responses; only the threat of a legal review encouraged them otherwise.  Second, the final design turned out little different from the draft design – leaving it “dangerous and unpleasant for both pedestrians and cyclists.”  (Greener Leith, 4 May 2013)

Similar scenarios are played out far too often around the Western world.  Under the guise of community consultation local governments are still reluctant to be totally transparent and are far too quick to ignore the feedback they receive from the consultation process.

Let us not allow the wool to be pulled over our eyes.  Community Engagement or Public Participation (call it what you will) has it’s place, but it is of limited usefulness when what is needed is greater transparency and for citizens and residents to be honestly listened to.

Furthermore, from Scotland to New Zealand, from Canada to Australia, what is being demanded by communities, more and more, is participation in the decision-making process itself.  And there is a profession that works with that as a goal.  It has a name:  Community Development.


  1. I think you bring up a key's all about transparency.

    1. Yes, transparency and honest and real participation.


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