Phase 2 Engage

Phase 2: Engage key leaders to assess current strengths and gaps in your community. In this phase, you will engage the broader community in a dialogue to learn community strengths, gaps, and priorities for action which raises awareness of dementia and; identify ways in which the community can build on its assets and fill gaps to provide additional supports.

Key Steps in Engage Phase

Form a Community Engagement Team. The team will drive the assessment effort. Potential members could include family and friend care partners, professionals, college students and retired people with interest and skills. While members of this team do not need to be part of the Action Team a lead/coordinator should be named who will serve as liaison to the Action Team.

  • Clarify Team Formation and Role. A Community Engagement Team consists of a Coordinator, members to conduct in-person interviews and focus groups with designated community members, and a person to enter data into the toolkit synthesis tools. When forming this sub-team, involve people who have connections to the community and enjoy meeting others.  Invite a mix of family and friend care partners, professionals, college students and retired people with interest and skills.  They need not be members of the Action Team.
  • Clarify Engagement Aims. The purpose of the engagement process is to gauge and foster awareness about dementia, identify if people know how to effectively interact with people with dementia, and identify ways in which the community can build on its assets and fill gaps to provide additional supports.

Develop the Community Assessment. Completing a community assessment requires time and resources. Every community has different needs and capacities for conducting an assessment; identifying opportunities; and abilities to prioritize and act on identified needs.

  • Begin Anywhere. Define the scope of your assessment including how it will be conducted and which sectors or areas will be evaluated. Identify a list of potential individuals/organizations that will be included in the assessment process. Set realistic goals based on your community’s situation.
  • Determine the Approach. Decide which method(s) you will use to engage the community (mailed or administered surveys, interviews, focus groups, or mixed). Determine how many of the interview questionnaires are reasonable or appropriate for your Action Team to complete. There are different questionnaires for different community sectors. You may choose to complete all or only some of the 11 sector-based questionnaires – there is no specific number required. Identify three places/people per sector to begin with and increase the contacts as needed to broaden the picture of the community’s strengths and gaps.


  • Review all of the assessment questions to increase your team’s knowledge about the key elements of a dementia friendly community.
  • Start with the resources you have and determine which key elements are most relevant. Working on one or a few initiatives is better than being immobilized by the ideal of a completely dementia capable community and not acting at all.
  • Focus Groups are another option for engagement. Focus group discussions can result in deeper understanding by spurring participants to add opinions and ideas that they may have not thought to would bring up in a one to one interview.

Helpful resources:

Conduct the Community Assessment. Based on the scope and method defined above, train team members who will be conducting the assessment.  Assemble a resource packet on steps sectors can take to become dementia friendly to distribute while doing interviews and focus groups to help explain the process and best practices for becoming a more dementia friendly community. 

  • Train Members Who Will Be Conducting Interviews. Provide a training session to help interviewers and focus group moderators become familiar with questions and strategies.  Role play asking questions and reacting to responses to help interviewers and leaders become comfortable with the process. Encourage interviewers to do their first interview with a person they know.  Determine who will work in pairs with one person focusing on conducting the interview or focus group while the other person records responses.
  • Review pre-interview/focus group email and call script and materials for interviews/focus groups.  Review the resource packet on steps sectors can take to become dementia friendly to distribute with team members who will be doing interviews and focus groups to help explain the evidence-based process and best practices for becoming a dementia friendly community.

Helpful resources:

Develop an Organized Process Flow and Timeline. Establish a timeline and target end date for the assessment process and analysis. Try to complete it as quickly as possible to maintain team enthusiasm and project momentum. Communicate progress to key stakeholders. Conduct regular debrief sessions with team members about what they are learning during the interviews to allow for recalibration, problem solving and identification of additional interviewees as needed.

  • Assign and Track. The Community Engagement Team Lead can assign questionnaires to team members and record and track interviews and focus groups using the Community Needs Assessment – Master List of Interview Contacts. This tracking document collects contact information to create a mailing list for an upcoming community meeting to share assessment results.  Decide how completed questionnaires will be collected (email, drop off, etc.) and how people will obtain new ones.
  • Set Timelines. Set a two-week deadline to complete first interviews or focus groups and share experiences with the group.  Enter data into the synthesis tools (see Phase 3 for instructions for systems to organize the questionnaires and enter data) as questionnaires are completed rather than entering all questionnaire data at one time.  Ensure that each sector you intended to reach in your process is adequately represented and plan to add interviews or focus groups as needed.
  • Establish a timeline and target end date. Finish the assessment process and do the data entry in three months or less to maintain team enthusiasm and process momentum. The sooner the team analyzes the data and creates an action plan, the more rewarding the experience will be for everyone involved.
  • Communicate Progress. Keep everyone informed and plan to meet every two weeks with the Community Engagement Team to keep the project on track and review progress and the process.  Let members debrief about what they are learning during the interviews. The team can provide suggestions of people to contact if more input is needed in a sector.

Helpful resources:

Engage the Community Through Sector-Based Interviews or Focus Groups. Conducting focus groups and engaging various members of the community in completing surveys will allow the team to identify community strengths, and gaps; and understand community members’ preferences for actions which raise awareness of dementia.

  • Contact Interviewee / Focus Group Members. Schedule a time to meet to complete an interview or hold a focus group. Introduce yourself, the project, and the reason they were selected to participate in the community assessment.
  • Share Reference Materials. This should include the appropriate sector guide to help underscore the importance of the issue, raise awareness, and give sector-specific guidance for effectively interacting with people living with dementia.
  • Conduct the interview or focus group.  If interviewing or moderating focus groups in pairs, one person can ask the questions and carry on the discussion while the other records the responses and contributes where appropriate. Focus group discussions should be recorded, if possible. Pose the questions as they are written and in the order they appear in the questionnaire.
  • Send a thank you note after the interview or focus group to strengthen connections for future needs and actions. As applicable, explain that results from the community assessment will be shared at a community meeting and inform them of the meeting date, if it is known.


  • Some interviewees prefer to complete the questionnaire prior to the interview meeting and will request an electronic copy.  If the questionnaire was completed prior to the meeting, it should be collected along with additional comments prompted by the discussion.
  • Individual interviews are preferred over group interviews because it is easier to form a relationship and receive rich feedback and stories.
  • Expect people being interviewed to share personal stories. These stories lead to conversations that help identify the community’s strengths and gaps.
  • While conducting the assessment, it’s critical to let the process play out rather than offer personal opinions that may compromise the results.  The outcomes may or may not validate the interview team’s perceptions, but that is the value and fun in doing a community-wide assessment.
  • Enjoy the experience! This is an opportunity to learn, network, and really get to know community residents along with the services and resources available.

Helpful resources:


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