What does community engagement involve?

Community engagement steps

  • knowing the community in order to become familiar with individuals and organizations that can both aid in implementation and be potential partners;
  • building trust within the community, especially among the young people who will be beneficiaries of the CSE programme;
  • starting discussions with the community in order to listen to input and concerns, and build community comfort with CSE provision;
  • developing messages and content that reflect the religious and cultural beliefs within the community, and that integrate language that is age- and developmentally appropriate for youth;
  • following up in order to keep the community informed about your programme.


Tips for implementing these steps effectively

Prepare: know your community
  • Identify and work with the community to understand their context, realities, structures and safe spaces; identify supportive attitudes and existing accurate knowledge about adolescent sexuality.
  • Spend time getting to know the young people – for example, who is having sex (and at what age), what data is available, is sex only taking place within marriage and what concerns and issues do young people have? 
  • Explore possibilities for partnerships, including with learning institutions, service providers, YouTubers and other online communities (if relevant). 
  • Develop strategies to work with parents, families and communities, not only the young people themselves. 
  • Reach out and develop partnerships with community groups that have links with the intended beneficiaries.
  • Involve different groups of young people in the development of the CSE content, and address young people's feedback on current/previous CSE programmes.
  • Meet with peer educators and other community leaders to find out what should be done differently in CSE programmes based on previous experiences. 
Build trust
  • Involve community members – including young people – in the discussion. Parents, teachers, religious leaders, role models and service providers are gatekeepers to young people accessing CSE. It is crucial to work with them to counter inaccurate information and dispel myths and misconceptions around sexual and reproductive health, citing published evidence whenever possible. 
  • Identify young people who can be trained as (co-) facilitators of the discussions. Trust comes from being equal partners; young people trust you if you trust them.Work with them when planning the discussions. 
  • Create or find safe spaces to interact with community members (e.g. existing meeting places, online spaces). 
Start discussions with the community
  • Open a discussion to find out what the most urgent issues in the community are regarding sexuality and sexual and reproductive health. 
  • Introduce the CSE content you want to discuss. Make sure that there is time for answering questions and addressing the concerns of parents and others. Topics such as sexual pleasure need a lot of explanation; be prepared!
  • Once you've provided sensitization on sexual and reproductive health and a general orientation on CSE, involve the community in the design, implementation and monitoring of the CSE programme. 
  • Intergenerational dialogues can help transform attitudes to be supportive of young people's sexual and reproductive health and rights. 
Develop messages and content
  • Identify and work with religious leaders and scholars who are supportive of sexual and reproductive health and rights to develop positive messages about how religious teachings support and can be reconciled with sensitive issues in CSE. 
  • The use of language in developing content and messaging for CSE programmes is crucial – try to avoid any language/words that are subjective or biased or that can be interpreted in different ways.
  • Discuss which words should be used in the local language to ensure that the language is respectful, accurate and nonjudgemental. 
  • Discuss how you can ensure that the content is development/age appropriate. 
  • Discuss how teachers, parents and other community members can follow up the lessons you want to deliver and support them to feel more comfortable answering difficult questions. 
Follow up

Update community members about your progress in implementation, as well as changes in your plans and any challenges and ideas for improving CSE delivery.

    [Source: IPPF. 2017. Deliver + enable toolkit: Scaling-up comprehensive sexuality education (CSE).]

    Analysing stakeholders and power

    A stakeholder analysis provides a sense of which institutions and individuals have a stake in providing CSE, as well as their interests, support or opposition, influence, and importance. Finding where stakeholders stand on the issue can shield CSE initiatives from surprises and false assumptions.

    Various information-gathering methods can be employed for the stakeholder analysis such as undertaking community mapping, surveys, and interviews with primary stakeholders and collaborating organizations such as NGOs. Organizing stakeholder workshops and informal consultations of stakeholders through household visits are other possible methods.

    Five steps of a stakeholder analysis


    1. Identification of stakeholders (individuals, groups and institutions)

    • Who is likely to gain from the proposed changes?
    • Who might be adversely affected?
    • Who has the power to make the changes happen?
    • Who complains about the issue?
    • Who are the vulnerable groups that may be affected by the project?
    • Who are the primary stakeholders and who are secondary stakeholders with regards to the issue?
    • Who are the rights holders and who are the duty bearers?
    • What are the relationships between the individuals, groups and institutions listed in the questions above?

    2. Assessment of stakeholders’ interests

    Once the key stakeholders have been identified, the interest these groups or individuals may have in the issue can be considered:

    • What are the stakeholders’ expectations of the project?
    • What benefits are likely to result from the project for the stakeholders?
    • What resources might the stakeholders be able and willing to mobilize?
    • What stakeholder interests conflict with project goals?

    3. Assessment of stakeholder support or opposition to the issue. 

    To assess the stakeholder’s support or opposition to an issue:

    • Does the stakeholder publicly support or oppose the issue?
    • Is the public support or opposition different from private support or opposition?
    • Who else is the stakeholder allied to and opposed to?
    • Does that shed additional light on the stakeholder’s support or opposition to the issue?
    • What has the previous position been on similar issues?
    • Has the stakeholder’s position changed over time? If yes, how?

    4. Assessment of stakeholder influence. 

    To assess the influence of a stakeholder, advocacy planners should know:

    • What is the political, social and economic power and status of the stakeholder?
    • How well is the stakeholder organized?
    • What control does the stakeholder have over strategic resources?
    • What level of informal influence does the stakeholder have?

    5. Assessment of stakeholder importance

    Although the stakeholders’ importance and their influence over an issue might seem similar, they are actually very different. Degree of influence reflects the direct power a stakeholder has to influence change. Importance, on the other hand, reflects the necessity to engage that stakeholder in order to address the underlying causes of a problem and achieve sustainable change. Analysis of importance is very much consistent with a rights based approach. For example, while children are not always very influential in policy discussions, it is very important that they are part of them

    • Does the issue compromise the stakeholder’s rights, and does the stakeholder have a right to solutions for the issue? Is the stakeholder a rights holder?
    • Will stakeholder engagement help address deeper underlying causes to the problem, so that solutions can be sustainable in the future?