Image of African American boy asking a question on a stage.

Why Engage?

Engaging with communities and other stakeholders allows you to work together to understand and address issues. This starts with connecting – with community members, education, juvenile or adult criminal justice systems, government, and any other relevant stakeholders. Building and strengthening these relationships and ongoing collaboration continues throughout each aspect of the work.


Key Questions to Consider

  • In bringing communities and other stakeholders together, what issue(s) are we trying to better understand and address?
  • What communities are we trying to reach and engage?
  • Who can help in understanding and addressing the issue, and how can we reach and engage them?
  • Have those who are directly affected by the issue been participating? If not fully, how can we better connect and support their participation?
  • Have people who have responsibility or influence to change conditions been participating? If not fully, how can we connect and support their participation?
  • How can each stakeholder be meaningfully engaged in each aspect of the work?
    • Assessment
    • Planning
    • Action
    • Evaluation
    • Communication & Celebration
  • Have we created an environment that encourages full and effective participation?
  • What ground rules and guiding principles can help build trust and relationships among those involved?
  • What strengths do those involved bring to the group (e.g. knowledge, skills, resources, networks)?
  • What is the main purpose or function of the group? What group structure can support this purpose?


Some Recommended Actions

  1. __ Clarify the purpose for engaging with communities and other stakeholders.
  2. __ Identify those who need to be engaged, including those most affected and those who can address the issue.
  3. __ Reach out to those you want to engage through trusted people, organizations, and networks. (This may include local leaders or those with influence such as faith-based leaders.)
  4. __ Communicate the need and benefits of taking action together.
  5. __ Make participation easy and rewarding. (This may include considerations for time, effort, cost, and location; ensuring respectful interactions; and making the experience rewarding.)
  6. __ Improve peoples’ abilities to be involved (e.g. provide information, skill training, technical support).
  7. __ Define the function and structure of the group (e.g. roles and responsibilities, coordination and leadership, communication and decision-making structures).
  8. __ Create an environment that fosters full and effective participation (e.g. welcoming, respectful, engaging quieter members).
  9. __ Establish shared ground rules and guiding principles to inform the group’s values, norms, and commitments for working together.
  10. __ Build and strengthen relationships and trust through respectful and responsive interactions.


Resources to Help You Engage

Youth Justice Resources


Resources from the Community Tool Box


Troubleshooting Guides for Solving Common Problems

Additional Resources (reading, tools, examples, and PowerPoints)