What do you call someone who works in community engagement?

Sounds like the beginning of a joke but instead this little blog post is about the results of a survey question.

As part of my PhD research, I recently conducted a survey of 375 people who identified as ‘working in community engagement in Australia’ (BTW, Massive thanks if you were one of the people to complete the survey!).

In response to the question, ‘Which word would you be most likely to use to describe a community engagement professional?’ the results weren’t entirely uniform.

Of the 357 people who answered the question, the most popular response was ‘practitioner’ (42%). This was followed by ‘facilitator’ (32%), then ‘professional’ (20%) and finally ‘expert’ (6%).

There was a little variation when I compared the sector backgrounds of respondents but nothing statistically significant enough to say there is a difference.

This result has me pondering a few things…

  • If the people who do community engagement work don’t have consensus around a name – does is hinder how the work is understood, or even practiced?
  • There doesn’t seem to be consensus on what the practice is called. It’s often known as ‘community OR public OR citizen’ PLUS ‘engagement OR participation OR consultation’. This must contribute to some confusion? (If you think about the field of expertise of engineers, accountants or teachers it’s pretty straight forward what they know about and do).
  • Does it matter that the work and the people who do it are known as different things? And is it likely to change?

So what do you think engagement people?