A couple of weeks back, during an interview with a community engagement practitioner, I asked what “engagement” meant to him, and how it differed from “participation”. His response surprised me, “as far as I’m concerned, they mean the same thing”. You just replace “engagement” with “participation” or “involvement” depending on where you are.”
I’m not sure if this quite correct. Language is important, and we usually select specific words and phrases because of their specific contextual meaning, cultural fit, socio-cultural history and a whole range of other factors...it is all too easy to fall into the trap of imagining that the way “we”, (you and me) use a particular phrase, is the same as the people sitting next to us on the bus, or across the table during a negotiation, or when we’re trying to design a process based on a shared understanding of desirable outcomes.