Civic engagement, community engagement and citizen engagement are often used interchangeably. Despite sounding like pretty much the same thing, there are very real differences between them, and the outcomes of participating in each type of engagement.

What Is Civic Engagement?

Civic engagement is when you participate in causes that are for the good of the community and general citizens, but that don’t necessarily involve direct government involvement or communication.

This means participating in civic engagement activities, like voting, volunteering for good causes, and protesting or marching against policies and infrastructure you disagree with.

Civic Engagement vs. Citizen Engagement vs. Community Engagement: What’s the Difference?


Civic engagement is less about making direct change through conversation with officials, but being part of initiatives that help uplift our society socially and civilly.

Citizen engagement means interacting on an individual level with government initiatives. This would be attending the consultation process and participating in community engagement activities with a set purpose and outcome in mind.  

Community engagement is when groups, organisations and citizens actively participate and engage with government-led activities. Usually, these initiatives involve liaising with stakeholders and officials to hear the collective views of the local community members during the public consultation process.

Why is Civic Engagement Important?

Civic engagement plays a vital role in encouraging individuals to think of themselves as citizens with a meaningful voice in the democratic process.

Through participation in community advocacy efforts, individuals can express collective viewpoints and push for change in policy and societal direction. It gives a voice to marginalised and underrepresented communities, as well as promotes trust and a feeling of collective belonging and understanding between citizens.

Civic engagement can be deeply empowering, allowing individuals to express their views, advocate for change and hold the government accountable for policy choices.

Challenges in Civic Engagement

community group gathered to discuss local initative

We can’t all agree all the time. Despite the many benefits of civic engagement including increased awareness of social issues and enhanced civic pride, there are challenges that can arise from the engagement process.

Digital divide and marginalisation

Marginalised communities can struggle with access to the same resources, like technology and internet literacy. This means they’re less able to participate in online civic engagement activities or obtain the same access to information about opportunities to have their voice heard. As a society, we need to breach the digital divide and make every initiative as inclusive and accessible as possible.

Legal barriers

There can be legal barriers to civic engagement, like legislative red tape or restrictive voting laws. Everyone needs to act fairly, democratically and within the restrictions of the law. This can cause issues with a civic engagement activity like protesting, particularly if actions are taken by individuals within the crowd that disrupt the very real problem the protest is trying to address.

Lack of awareness

Very often people aren’t happy with sitatuions, organisations or institutional movements, but lack knowledge of how to express that. Many people may be unaware of their rights, like their right to protest unfair practices or key issues. This lack of awareness means they won’t’ participate in civic engagement activities that raise awareness and thus the cycle continues.

Examples of Civic Engagement Activities


Civic engagement encompasses a wide range of activities aimed at improving civil society and promoting positive change through collective action.


Whether it’s in a local election, general election or even voting for community leaders, participating allows citizens to have a say in who represents them and their priorities. It provides an occasion to advocate for change and push for equality through democratic participation.


Volunteering means dedicating your time, skills and resources to unpaid work you genuinely believe will better society as a whole. That could be working in a charity shop, supporting the homeless, caring for the environment, or any other number of positive activities that mean you are making a meaningful contribution to society.

Volunteering is a type of civic participation that is good for the individual and the community, evoking empathy and compassion, and creating a feeling that as a society we are all collectively responsible for each other. It’s a type of civic engagement that makes individuals feel part of something bigger, something meaningful, and can create real human connection where otherwise it might not have happened.


Civic engagement doesn’t have to be all sunshine and rainbows either though. If we as a collective society, and our governing leaders, are progressing in a way that doesn’t sit right with individuals, they should be able to express that.

There’s plenty of ways people can protest and hold government’s, individuals or institutions accountable for decisions made including peaceful marches, speaking out against injustice, or spreading awareness through evocative content.

Organising collective means to express disapproval inspires public discourse, gives marginalised individuals an opportunity to be heard, and can lead to real, effective reform that otherwise may have taken decades to occur.

This type of civic engagement gives rise to the opportunity for real, radical change in policy and approach.

The Future of Civic Engagement

A person in a yellow sweater typing on a laptop.

Like everything else, the future of civic engagement is online. Technology has an ever-increasing role in our lives, from voting to volunteering, to participating in civic engagement efforts that impact democratic society.

How people engage with governments and institutions has shifted, making it more accessible than having to traipse down to a town meeting to have your voice heard. It’s partly why youth civic engagement is so prominent; as technology has given them the platform to both educate themselves on issues they may previously have been unaware of, and to share their own opinions across social media and beyond.

This allows people to advocate for change at all ages and from all different demographics, changing the way civic engagement and the political process is approached.