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Community Mobilization

Community Development, Mobilization, and Engagement

Community Development is also described as “community mobilization” or “community engagement.” According to Erin Casey, “Typically defined as engaging community members in an effort to mobilize resources, build community capacity to respond to and prevent violence and to change community norms, community mobilization is a strategy that has become increasingly more common in violence prevention endeavors”.
There are similar key features:
1. Community involvement
2. Community empowerment
3. Capacity building (Minkler & Wallerstein, 2002)

Lydia Guy writes, “Community development as a sexual violence prevention strategy is an interesting paradigm. Based on our own individual skill set and life experiences, we usually enter into the process with an expectation of what the outcome might be. In partnership with others, we enter into a collaborative process to understand the dynamics of sexual violence in our communities and reduce the negative impact. Through dialogue and discourse we reach a shared understanding. The resulting strategies derived from the collective mind are generally not what any individual stakeholder envisioned but are quite often exactly what the community needs”.

Steps for community mobilization identified in An Introduction to Community Development: Activation to Evaluation:
1. Stakeholder recruitment
2. Identifying underlying conditions, as identified by community stakeholders
3. Community assessment
4. Development of a community plan (along with outcome measurements)
Defining outcomes for social change work can help you: See if you’re addressing underlying conditions, continuously improve your processes and activities, support a group’s sense of purpose and direction, make informed decisions about what to do next, and report on progress to funders and stakeholders (pg. 25).
5. Development of an evaluation tool
6. Plan implementation
7. Evaluate
8. Repeat!

In “Promising Practices in Sexual Violence Prevention and Community Mobilization for Prevention: A Report to the City of Seattle”, Erin Casey identifies the critical elements of community mobilization strategies as the following:
1. Community mobilization inherently involves community engagement and partnership – universally-identified key components to success.
– This includes recruiting community members to participate in needs assessments, convening advisory boards comprised of multiple constituencies within a community, empowering community members to carry out chosen intervention strategies and evaluation endeavors, and recruiting community members to occupy leadership positions within the prevention effort (Minkler & Wallerstein)
2. Community mobilization should be undertaken with the unique context of the community in mind; efforts should have a demonstrated constituency with cultural norms and expectations and with an understanding of the history and needs of a community.
3. Community-based prevention efforts are generally more effective when they are informed by clear theoretical rationale.
4. Community mobilization efforts should incorporate a focus on fostering community strengths and capacity in addition to addressing risk factors for sexual violence.

Principles of Community Building:
1. Strengthen communities holistically: In other words, support all aspects of community living, including economic opportunity, affordable housing, safety and security, youth development, transportation and utility industries, health care, early childhood services, and education, rather than target bits and pieces of the community puzzle.
2. Build local capacity for problem solving and build relationships between communities and resource institutions. Community organizing is at the heart of community building. Policies should encourage organizational development and create linkages and partnerships between community organizations and other institutions. They should recognize the value of community assets, strengthen these, and invest in building more.
3. Foster community participation in policy development and implementation. This can be done through community planning, alternative governance structures, and new financing methods that allow local authorities and even neighborhoods to have a say in the deployment of resources.
4. Deal explicitly with issues of “race” and ethnicity and their role in creating social and economic deprivation. The face of poverty remains disproportionately African American-and Latina/o. Community-building efforts seek to level the playing field and create equitable outcomes for all groups.
5. Break down the isolation of poor communities. Community improvement should be viewed in the context of the broader region. Neighborhoods must be linked to the larger context of regional development.
6. Tailor programs to local conditions. The most effective solutions to local problems come from within the community itself, and steps must be taken to engage the community local problem solving.
7. Build accountability mechanism so that efforts are tied to community standards. This enables communities to maintain improvements and monitor the progress they are making toward achieving a better quality of life.
Originally from: Blackwell, A.G. 1999. Forward. In Stories of Renewal: Community Building and the Future of Urban America, by J.Walsh. New York: Rockerfeller Foundation.

“Operating principles for building community”
Focus on real work
Keep it simple
Build from good; expect better; make great
Seek what unifies
Do it when people are ready
Design spaces where community can happen
Find and cultivate informal leaders
Learn how to host good gatherings
Acknowledge people’s contributions
Involve the whole person
– Brown et al. 1996, 525-29


An Introduction to Community Development: Activation to Evaluation, A publication of the Sexual Assault Prevention Resource Center of the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, written by Lydia Guy, Prevention Services Director.
– Includes detailed planning tools, including information on how to develop an evaluation plan.

“Engaging Communities in Sexual Violence Prevention: A guidebook for individual and organizations engaging in collaborative prevention work” by Morgan J. Curtis LMSW of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.
– Includes detailed community mapping tools, including a section dedicated to identifying assets and resources in the community.
– Identifies four main benefits of engaging communities in the primary prevention of sexual violence: community buy-in, sustainability, resource sharing, and necessity of creating a unified effort to end sexual violence.

The Asian and Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence released a report “The Community Engagement Continuum: Outreach, Mobilization, Organizing and Accountability to Address Violence Against Women in Asian and Pacific Islander Communities” highlighting community engagement strategies.

Gayle Stringer of the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs wrote a manual titled Community Development & Sexual Violence Prevention: Creating Partnerships for Social Change

Instigate! An Online Toolkit for Community Mobilization

Instigate! An Online Toolkit for Starting a Community Action Team

Community Toolbox: The Community Tool Box is a global resource for free information on essential skills for building healthy communities. It offers more than 7,000 pages of practical guidance in creating change and improvement.

Communities Engaged in Resisting Violence: This 2007 report, written by Taskforce co-founder Melissa Spatz and DePaul University Professor Ann Russo through the Women & Girls Collective Action Network, looks at ways that Chicago groups — and especially youth groups — are engaging their communities in grassroots efforts to end violence. The report features 16 innovative organizations from across the city, and describes their analysis, structure and chosen approaches for ending violence against women and girls. The report also includes discussion questions, fundraising ideas and more that you can take back to your own community.

Community Action Prevention Projects

Project ENVISION from New York City, NY.

Threshold Collaborative from North Bennington, Vermont.

Transforming Communities from San Rafael, CA

Close 2 Home in Dorchester, Massachusetts

Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs.

Working with Youth Who Are Homeless is an example of a community development project to prevent sexual assault.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center developed 10 community action projects for Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) 2007.

  1. Local media designates a week to focus on positive images and stories of girls and women, relationships, and healthy sexuality. During this week, community leaders honor local heroes who are positive role models.
  2. Educators teach non-violent conflict-resolution skills and promote anti-bullying values that demonstrate respect for everyone.
  3. Coaches and fans emphasize skill-development, team work, character and sportsmanship over competition. Players are motivated with praise. Sponsor gender violence prevention training for youth athletic teams.
  4. Community Centers provide forums for inter-generational discussions and activities about pop culture and technology. Activities can include helping older people to learn more about newer technologies, and helping younger people learn to notice and critically evaluate underlying themes and messages in games, movies, music and ads.
  5. Faith and Spiritual Community members sponsor activities that demonstrate appreciation for diversity, such as hosting educational activities around various holidays, and inviting people to share favorite recipes and talk about their family traditions that build respect.
  6. Health Care Providers talk with patients about normal human development and healthy, consensual sexuality.
  7. Young People value the uniqueness of each person; find positive friends; reach out to at-risk peers; develop leadership skills; and speak out about ways to show respect.
  8. Artists and Businesses work together to create/display murals, posters, kites, or variations on the “cow parade” phenomenon illustrating healthy relationships.
  9. Employers promote violence-free workplaces; establish and enforce sexual harassment and anti-bullying policies; contribute resources to programs that are working to make a difference.
  10. “Wear a Pin; Share a Pin.” Groups encourage members to wear a teal ribbon awareness pin. Make them available to give away with information on what to say when someone asks about the teal pin.