ProgramCOVID-19 Federal Assistance e311
TopicsCommunity Engagement & Local Partnerships
What are some of the specific roles that both community members and local governments can play in community-engaging partnerships? How can a municipality ensure that their communities are benefiting from these partnerships?
Community engagement is a key factor in federal grant programs. When communities are engaged “the likelihood that projects or solutions will be widely accepted” increases, and citizens are more committed to the projects’ success. Some federal programs require reporting on a recipient’s community engagement efforts. For example, Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (“CSLFRF”) guidance notes that to satisfy annual reporting related to community engagement, Recipients may describe completed or planned community engagement strategies specifically focused on their SLFRF program and projects or community engagement strategies that included SLFRF among other government programs.
Strategies for effectively engaging the community and generating buy-in from community members include but are not limited to:
- Implementing advisory boards
- Encouraging community engagement in budgeting
- Using mobile apps and web-based engagement platforms
- Deploying community surveys,
- Implementing focus groups
- Hosting open houses, workshops, forums, and
- Hosting public meetings and hearings.
These strategies encourage open communication between the public and local officials, engaging members of the public in projects by providing feedback and informing the government on the community’s priorities. It is a good practice to set milestones or metrics for the initiative to ensure that engagement is meeting the target goal. There is no one best practice for community engagement; instead, there is a range of engagement options and roles that can be tailored to fit the needs of the specific government program or of the community.
Community engagement can be achieved by drawing from a diverse group to develop creative, effective, practical solutions informed by local knowledge. This also includes empowering and integrating people from different backgrounds. Both lead to better outcomes, a more comprehensive program, and greater community engagement.
Establishing open communication between the local government or municipality’s leaders can also facilitates community engagement and solutions for issues affecting a diverse range of constituents. 
One example of an engagement platform is Connect Sammamish, a website used by the city of Sammamish in Washington State. The website allowed the city to conduct surveys, communicate with the community about the city’s Transportation Master Plan, and build trust with community members by providing a centralized source for key updates. Residents of Sammamish can use Connect Sammamish to view current and upcoming projects that the city is undertaking, learn about prior projects, and keep up to date with important information happening in the city.
Another example of a local government’s incorporation of open communication and community partnership good practices is the Housing Authority of the City of Austin’s (“HACA”) Digital Ambassador Program. The Digital Ambassador Program leverages the knowledge of resident leaders to increase technological literacy and to make digital tools accessible to all HACA residents.
HACA selects as digital ambassadors, residents with different levels of technology experience so that all levels of unconnected or technologically disadvantaged residents can be reached. HACA Digital Ambassadors received training on diverse topics, including adult technology learning principles, digital equity policies and programs, outreach strategies, civic engagement, and the use of digital tools for transportation, education, workforce development, energy efficiency, and social services. HACA’s interaction with its digital ambassadors and the insight gleaned from the residents these ambassadors influenced also informed HACA’s digital communication plan.
Last Updated: March 9, 2023
 Penn State Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education, “Why Community Engagement Matters”, available at: https://aese.psu.edu/research/centers/cecd/engagement-toolbox/engagement/why-community-engagement-matters.
 SLFRF Compliance and Reporting Guidance, at 37, available at SLFRF-Compliance-and-Reporting-Guidance.pdf (treasury.gov)
 MRSC, “Community Engagement Resources”, available at: https://mrsc.org/Home/Explore-Topics/Governance/Engagement/Community-Engagement-Resources.aspx.
 Granicus, see Item 8 of “10 Community success stories that show the power of online community engagement”.
 Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, “Unlocking the Connection: How the Housing Authority of the City of Austin Has Tackled the Digital Divide,” available at: https://clpha.org/news/2023/unlocking-connection-how-housing-authority-city-austin-has-tackled-digital-divide
 HUD Exchange, “ConnectHomeUSA Resident Engagement Best Practices Guide”, July 2022, Case Study: Housing Authority of the City of Austin Digital Ambassador Program at pages 7 -12, available at: https://files.hudexchange.info/resources/documents/ConnectHomeUSA-Playbook-Resident-Engagement-Best-Practices-Guide.pdf