Precision please – Aspects of Community Engagement are often nebulous – but Consultation is a very precise activity.
Consultation within the public sector – and sometimes in the commercial sector as well – is increasingly being placed in the wider context of community engagement.
This expression means many different things to different people, and can cause considerable confusion. Some stakeholders, eager for an enhanced voice in key decisions, see this as a platform for much greater involvement: others believe it can amount to an effective veto on policies or decisions they dislike. Terms like citizen empowerment and active citizenship cause similar problems, if only because they are vague.
So where does consultation begin and end? And when does it become community engagement?