Community Engagement

Community engagement is not merely a tokenistic endeavor or an act of corporate social responsibility; it is a cornerstone for the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Set forth by the United Nations in 2015, the SDGs are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all by 2030. The 17 goals, with their intricate web of 169 targets, paint an ambitious picture of a future that is inclusive, equitable, and sustainable. To achieve this vision, community engagement is indispensable.

At its core, community engagement is about collaboration. It involves working closely with individuals, groups, and organizations within a specific community to understand their needs, aspirations, and challenges. This understanding is pivotal in creating solutions that are relevant, effective, and sustainable. For instance, while SDG 6 emphasizes clean water and sanitation for all, its actual implementation requires an understanding of local water sources, traditional practices, and community receptiveness. A project that may work splendidly in a metropolitan city may not be suitable for a remote village. Hence, without the active participation and feedback of the local community, even the most well-intentioned initiatives can falter.

Moreover, community engagement fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility. When communities are involved in decision-making processes and implementation, they are more likely to take responsibility for the continued success and sustainability of these projects. Take, for instance, SDG 4, which focuses on quality education. Building schools is one thing, but ensuring that they cater to the community's needs, respect cultural norms, and employ locally relevant curricula makes all the difference. When the community sees the school as an extension of itself, it becomes a partner in its success, ensuring regular attendance, maintenance, and even improvements.

Furthermore, community engagement facilitates the pooling of resources, knowledge, and skills. Every community has its reservoir of indigenous knowledge and practices that have evolved over generations. Integrating this wisdom can often provide cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and culturally sensitive solutions. SDG 15, which emphasizes life on land, for example, can benefit immensely from local knowledge on sustainable farming, reforestation, and land management. Such collaborative efforts not only respect and celebrate local expertise but also lead to solutions that stand the test of time.

Additionally, community engagement fosters transparency and accountability. As stakeholders in the process, communities can monitor, provide feedback, and ensure that the SDGs are pursued in the spirit they were intended. This reduces the risks of mismanagement, corruption, and inefficacy, making every dollar invested and every effort expended count.

Since 2017 HPCC Systems has taken part in Kennesaw State University’s annual Hackathon for Social Good held at the Joe Mack Wilson Student Center, Marietta Campus. The goal of this hackathon is to connect students with companies through workshops and mentoring to achieve a final product that can in some way help the community. This year was no different and in fact, was the most in-depth challenge HPCC Systems has offered so far. This year the Help Missing Kids Challenge was introduced.
UGAHacks is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization that has been hosting an annual 48-hour hackathon for almost a decade now. This was the 2nd time HPCC Systems sponsored a challenge and participated in the hackathon held at the University of Georgia. If you want to catch up on our participation in last year’s event, please read the blog: UGA Hacks 8, Hot Wings and Hope for the Future.
This book chapter advances SDG 3 and 10 by discussing the issues currently driving mental healthcare disparities in the Latinx population and how these approaches can provide a viable way to reduce them.

Community Mental Health Engagement with Racially Diverse Populations, 2020, Pages 15-48

This chapter addresses SDGs 3 and 10 by addressing the disparities existing in mental healthcare in the US Latinx population.
This chapter addresses SDG 10 and SDG 3 by discussing the issues currently driving mental healthcare disparities in the Latinx population and how these approaches can provide a viable way to reduce them.
This book chapter advances SDG 3 and 10 by reviewing the health and mental health inequities of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities and how to overcome the disparities.
This book chapter advances SDG 3 and 10 by reviewing important considerations for working with Arab/Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) youth, including considerations of acculturation, discrimination, and cultural considerations regarding clinical care