Technical Assistance Guidelines Community Engagement Methods

Community engagement is a core principle of the Technical Assistance Guidelines and should be central to capacity building and technical assistance efforts. The following guidance provides a non-exhaustive list of ways to engage stakeholders in technical assistance provision.

Surveys

Surveys can help engage broad and diverse audiences of stakeholders. Surveys can gather information about specific programmatic needs at the local level, gauge interest in applying for a program or receiving TA and establish a point of contact between the State and local stakeholders. Surveying potential recipients on the full breadth of needs related to a program or initiative can help to ensure TA programs are designed with sufficient flexibility to meet diverse community needs. While surveys are an important tool, the quality information received from them is limited to the questions asked. Thoughtful survey design and outreach supplemented by other types of engagement can ensure more useful results.

Listening Tours and Public Workshops

Listening tours and public workshops are effective for gathering information about TA needs while building relationships between program staff and local stakeholders. In-person engagement can be particularly effective for building trust and relationships with disadvantaged communities that have typically been under-represented in informing State practice. Listening tours and public workshops can also be opportunities to offer TA, including providing information about the program, discussing potential project ideas, and convening local partners to identify joint priorities. Doing so can help local stakeholders envision the value of further TA while providing an interim benefit to those who offer their insights into program development.

Key Informant Interviews

Like listening tours and public workshops, key informant interviews (KIIs) are useful for soliciting input from stakeholders while building effective relationships. KIIs offer program staff and stakeholders the ability to engage more deeply on topics, answer more specific questions, and learn about unique needs and opportunities. Program staff or third-party TA providers can carry out KIIs remotely or in person. It is often helpful to host KIIs with intermediary organizations in support of planning further, more place-based engagement activities. In some cases, bringing stakeholders together in focus groups can be another effective strategy for gathering useful feedback.

Webinars

Webinars and online town halls can be useful in reaching broader audiences across the State without the resource intensity associated with in-person convenings. Webinars should be designed to communicate information about the TA program and gather input on TA needs, experience engaging with similar programs, and other information that can help shape the TA program. The downsides to this approach are that these events do not facilitate as effective relationship building or peer-to-peer networking as in person workshops and it can be difficult to gather input from a variety of stakeholders at once. Webinars are also inaccessible for those without internet access, although providing a call-in option can partially address this issue. You should plan these events to include time for gathering input, answering questions, and facilitating dialogue rather than simply providing information to stakeholders.

Technical Advisory Committees or Workgroups

In addition to conducting broad engagement with stakeholders and potential TA recipients, you may choose to convene a technical advisory committee or workgroup made up of community stakeholders, past and potential TA recipients, and other key informants. Workgroups can enable you to workshop more specific elements of the TA program’s design with well-informed partners. Potential topics to engage a workgroup on can include:

  • Culturally sensitive engagement practices with underserved communities
  • Updating or developing components of the TA
  • Contracting practices
  • TA implementation
  • TA evaluation