What Is Community Engagement?: Home

This guide is meant to be a first stop for those trying to learn about and implement community engagement in their work, and includes definitions and principles, how-to-guides and other resources, as well as frequently asked questions.

Why Community Engagement?

What Is Community Engagement?

Here at the Clinical and Translational Science Institute's Community Engaged Research Initiative (CERI), Duke faculty and staff work with researchers and community members to develop relationships, improve research, and create better health outcomes in our communities, particularly for historically disadvantaged groups of people. This guide defines community engagement, offers principles and best practices, and answers frequently asked questions about community engagement. 

Community engagement is “the process of working collaboratively with and through groups of people affiliated by geographic proximity, special interest, or similar situations to address issues affecting the wellbeing of those people. It is a powerful vehicle for bringing about environmental and behavioral changes that will improve the health of the community and its members. It often involves partnerships and coalitions that help mobilize resources and influence systems, change relationships among partners, and serve as catalysts for changing policies, programs, and practices”(CDC, 1997, p. 9).

For engagement to occur, it is necessary to go to the community and empower the community


Why is Community Engagement Important?

• Brings community-identified health priorities and interests to research (including health inequities as relevant)

Increases participation in research among underrepresented populations
Identifies treatment and prevention strategies that are uniquely effective for specific populations
Translates research more quickly to improved health

Increases both academic and community capacity

Principles of Community Engagement

Diagram Note: Outreach is a preparatory step that does not formally constitute community engagement. 

  • Be clear about the purposes of engagement and the populations you wish to engage

  • Become knowledgeable about the community

  • Establish relationships

  • Collective self-determination is the responsibility and right of the community

  • Partnering is necessary to create change and improve health

  • Recognize and respect the diversity of the community

  • Mobilize community assets and develop community capacity to take action

  • Release control of actions and be flexible to meet changing needs

  • Collaboration requires long-term commitment


For more information, please consult:

Contact Us

For More Information

The CTSI Community Engaged Research Initiative (CERI) facilitates equitable, authentic, and robust community-engaged research to improve health. Contact CERI if you are a Duke researcher or community member who wants more information about community engagement, community-engaged research, or to access CERI's services, which include: consultation services and community studios; community partnerships and coalitions; and education and training.

For more information about the resources in this guide, contact Leatrice Martin (leatrice.martin@duke.edu).