Transitions: Community Participation
Volume 14, No. 3, April 2002
This Transitions is also available in [PDF] format.
By Nicole Cheetham, MHS, Deputy Director, International Division, Advocates for Youth
- Be open and honest from the beginning with regard to what issues the program will and will not be able to
address. Unless the program will be able to respond to a wide range of community priorities, it is important to
be completely clear from the very beginning regarding what issues the program can and cannot address. If the
limits are not very clear, the community may experience disappointment and disillusionment when the participatory
process identifies issues that cannot be addressed.
- From the beginning, develop a common understanding of "community participation" among all those involved.
If community members understand their participation to mean one thing while program managers hold
different views, effective participation may be seriously compromised.
- Remain flexible. Communities may identify new priority issues over time or different approaches to resolving
previously identified problems. Program managers will need to respond with support and assistance as new
needs and approaches arise.
- Be willing to create and sustain partnerships. A community's needs may vary widely and may go well beyond
the expertise of the persons or agency providing assistance. Establishing and sustaining partnerships may be
critical to responding effectively to the community's diverse needs.
- Build capacity for informed decision-making. Communities may lack adequate information and skills to make
informed decisions about community-wide health issues. Programs may need to build local capacity so
community members can make informed decisions about the best strategies to meet their needs.
- Recognize that participation takes time. Community participation absolutely requires time for community
members to engage local stakeholders, ensure consensus, and shape the program. Planners need repeatedly to
recognize and acknowledge this time constraint.
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Transitions (ISSN 1097-1254) © 2002, is a quarterly publication of Advocates for Youth—Helping young people make safe and responsible decisions about sex. For permission to reprint, contact Transitions' editor at 202.419.3420.
Editor: Sue Alford