Criticisms of community engagement

Ach, du Schreck!


It’s a worry!


I’ve explained before that community engagement – especially with sustainability – is not an easy task.


Many people argue that it is problematic and can actually hurt those it most intends to benefit.


So let’s just have a quick look at some of the major criticisms. I’d love to hear comments back and maybe we can prepare a good list of responses.


And then figure out how to make better processes happen in our communities.


Please make a comment in the box below or contact me at [email protected]



Valid criticisms of community engagement include:

  • Lack of political and technical prowess among community groups makes them easy prey for co-optation by politicians or bureaucrats;
  • In engagement situations, a non-representative interest group may be able to manipulate the decision-making process towards its own ends;
  • Lack of expertise, inertia and fear of the results of new or novel ideas may induce opposition to whatever is proposed and only preserve the status quo;
  • Interest groups may veto each other’s proposals because it is always easier to organise resistance than to reach agreement;
  • The short-sightedness of local groups may prevent or delay formulation or implementation of broader plans; and
  • Non-participants will always form the bulk of the population. On these grounds, radical planners suggest that engagement is a diversion from the primary goal, that of changing society’s institutions.


What do YOU think of this list?