This evidence review explores the intersection between community engagement and inequality. It examines evidence, from Scotland and the UK, on what is being done to overcome inequality in community engagement.


Hard to Reach Or Easy to Ignore Evidence Review - coverThis evidence review examines what is being done to overcome inequality in community engagement, focussing on evidence from Scotland and the UK. It is part of the What Works Scotland work programme on community engagement and capacity-building.

Equality and community engagement are central to core policy developments and frameworks that guide current public sector reform: i.e. Christie Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services; Community Empowerment Act 2015; Fairer Scotland; Convention of Scottish Local Authorities’ Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy.

The key motivation for this review of the literature is to explore the intersection between community engagement and inequality. This is important because inequalities in health, wealth, income, education and so on, can be arguably seen as stemming from inequalities in power and influence. Therefore, community engagement processes can simply reproduce existing inequalities, unless they are designed and facilitated to distribute influence by ensuring diversity and inclusion.

The evidence highlights the difficulties in pursuing a complex and critical action plan to overcome inequality in community engagement.

The research findings are presented in section five under three main headings:

  • How is the relationship between equality and community engagement conceptualised in the literature?
  • What are the key dimensions and factors in the relationship between community engagement and equality? (i.e. in terms of both process and outcomes).
  • What works? What are the most effective strategies and approaches to ensure equality in community engagement?

The review will be relevant to the public and third sectors, as well as the research community in academia, government and activism. It aims to provide a resource for community engagement practitioners and policy workers.

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This report was produced by the What Works Scotland Evidence Bank. It was edited by Charlie Mills and  designed by Dawn Cattanach.

Additional review was provided by Dr Justine Geyer, Principal Research Officer, Local Governance and Reform Research, Scottish Government.

We thank the Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland and Dr Peter Matthews and colleagues for the title ‘Hard to reach’, or ‘easy to ignore’?

Date of publication: December 2017.  See the presentation from the launch event.

Type of publication: Evidence review



To cite this review:

Lightbody, R. (2017) Hard to reach’ or ‘easy to ignore’? Promoting equality in community engagement, Edinburgh: What Works Scotland.