The guidebook describes eight principles for developing "meaningful and equitable inclusion of diverse voices" for designing and carrying out public engagement. It highlights that equitable inclusion is vital to ethical and effective engagement, and that collaboration across diverse groups of people and perspectives can improve innovation, decisions, public support for decisions, and democratic capacity. It focuses particularly on public engagement to inform decision-making processes, but the principles are applicable to developing community science projects as well.
The eight principles are:
- Invite people to participate within an authentic and accountable engagement process
- Plan early and proactively
- Establish respective relationships with Indigenous Peoples
- Engage the internal diversity of a community
- Work in reciprocal relationship with communities
- Tailor engagement plans to the context
- Commit to ongoing learning and improvement
- Advance systemic equity
The guide was created through a participatory research and consultation process led by professional researchers that included focus groups and interviews with community members, government representatives, and public-engagement practitioners.
How to Use
The guide has many useful features for understanding, communicating, and building engagement that can also apply to community science projects. It starts with helpful definitions of equity and inclusion. It also provides many different rationales for why equity and inclusion matter not just for ethical decision-making, but also for higher quality and more effective insights, decisions, and solutions.
The guidebook outlines a spectrum of engagement for identifying different levels of engagement, which can inform different stages of community science projects. These range from keeping partners informed, having partners consult in the projects, involving partners in shaping the goals and concerns of the work, collaborating to formulate solutions, and empowering communities through a focus on implementing what community partners decide. The guidebook provides some ideas for thinking through when different engagement levels might be more fitting. Particularly relevant to conducting community science, the examples emphasize how a focus on the highest levels of engagement—collaboration and empowerment—are especially important when decisions will have a significant impact on a community (as defined by the community), or when power and equity imbalances mean that a community is typically excluded from decision making and leadership in science and broader society. The principles and descriptions of what each principle can involve are useful guides for seeing how to build many attributes of community science.