Effective community engagement guide and toolkit

Husthwaite village hall fete
rural village with phone box
ripon workhous garden
group of people discussing project plans

Community engagement is vital for groups or communities who want to run a local project, make a change in their community or gather information about a specific issue.

However, it can sometimes be difficult to know where to start.

This handy resource, comprising a guidebook and toolkit, brings together learning from a range of communities and provides a step-by-step guide to running an effective community engagement project. It outlines why community engagement is important, and highlights some of the pitfalls to help you avoid them. Packed with ideas on different methods of consulting with the community, the toolkit includes links to a number of free templates as well as valuable hints and tips so that you don’t miss anything important.

The guide will be especially useful for communities that are thinking about producing a parish plan. Read our simple fact sheet about parish plans.

The guidebook and toolkit are designed to support small community groups such as parish councils, parish meetings, local neighbourhood and interest groups who want to consult with their residents or members in order to gather information, gauge opinion or sound-out ideas through encouraging everyone to engage and contribute. Throughout the booklet you will see pointers to a range of further resources, which you can download from the links below.

Things to consider before you start to engage with your community

Planning templates and funding

Community Planning Net have a range of useful templates which can be used to support the planning process.

You might want to take a look at our funding resources and support on our Community Support North Yorkshire website as well as our funding training.

Constitutional guidance

The National Institute of Health Research: INVOLVE have put together a list of things to consider, which you should consider when producing terms of reference.

Risk assessments

Brighton Resource Centre have produced a simple guide to risk assessment for community groups.

This is an example of a risk assessment produced by Ards and North Down Borough Council which you could use as a basis for developing your own.


Data protection

The Information Commissioner’s Office have compiled some really useful tips to help small organisations ensure they operate within data protection law.

Brighton Resource Centre have produced a comprehensive summary of data protection responsibilities for small, volunteer-run community groups.

Summary of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) from the UK Government, designed to help organisations comply with data protection legislation.


Consultation techniques

Questionnaires and surveys

Download this step-by-step guide to developing effective questionnaires from South Lakeland District Council and ACTion with Communities in Cumbria.

This concise booklet, produced by East Suffolk Council, contains lots of useful tips on designing questionnaires and writing effective questions.

Our simple table helps you weigh up the pros and cons of using questionnaires and includes some top tips.

Newsletters and leaflets

There are various things to consider when planning a neighbourhood newsletter and Brighton Resource Centre have summarised those here.

Social media and other communication

You might find this blog from the Barnwood Trust a helpful read, as it summarises the learning from a workshop about communication for community groups.


This handy guide to organising events from the UK Government includes step-by-step guidance, including information about licences, permissions and risk management.

Take some useful tips from Asa Gurden (Head of the Scout Association’s Scout Activity Centres) on planning a community event, published in The Guardian.