Definitions from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary:



  1. seek information or advice from.
  2. seek permission or approval from.
  3. (consulting) engaged in the business of giving advice to others in the same field.



  1. attract or involve (someone’s interest or attention).
  2. (engage in/with) participate or become involved in.
  3. chiefly Brit. employ or hire.
  4. enter into a contract to do.
  5. enter into combat with.
  6. (with reference to a part of a machine or engine) move into position so as to come into operation.



  1. (of a situation or event) include as a necessary part or result.
  2. cause to experience or participate in an activity or situation.

These three words are used almost interchangeably. However, there can be differences in how they operate in practice. Consultation can be a one-way process where views are sought. For best practice, feedback should always be given to people who take part, but this doesn’t always happen. Involvement can be a deeper process where people become involved to some degree in shaping services and impacting decisions which affect them. Engagement can be a more formal arrangement where, particularly in the Public Sector, communities actively participate in decision making structures.

The National Standards for Community Engagement define community engagement as:

‘Developing and sustaining a working relationship between one or more public body and one or more community group, to help them both to understand and act on the needs or issues that the community experiences’