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Community Engagement and Public Events: The Case of Australian Folk Festivals

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The impact of public events on their host communities has been an area of increasing researcher focus over the past decade. While acknowledging this, little effort has been directed at identifying those practices purposefully employed by the organizers of such events for community engagement purposes. This exploratory study, undertaken in the Australian context, seeks to go some way towards addressing this gap in the literature by examining one type of public event—folk festivals—which anecdotally have a reputation for being proactive in the area of community engagement. The methodology for this study involved an extensive literature review, a series of in-depth interviews with senior managers of selected folk festivals (20), and an examination of secondary data sources relating to these same events. An analysis of this material resulted in the identification of a number of community engagement practices. These practices were grouped under three broad headings: transactional, transitional, or transformational. Additionally, a number of factors were identified as drivers for the adoption of these practices, while others were found to impact upon their use and/or effectiveness. It was also determined that a broad range of formal and informal community groups were embraced through the community engagement process. The significance of the findings from this study lie in their capacity to provide event organizers, both in the folk festival area and the broader public events field, with a deeper appreciation of the range of potential community engagement practices, along with key considerations in their use, as they seek to build a positive operational climate within their host communities.
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Keywords: COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT; FOLK FESTIVALS; PUBLIC EVENTS; STAKEHOLDERS; TRANSACTIONAL, TRANSITIONAL, AND TRANSFORMATIONAL COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT PRACTICES

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 13, 2016

More about this publication?
  • Event Management, an International Journal, intends to meet the research and analytic needs of a rapidly growing profession focused on events. This field has developed in size and impact globally to become a major business with numerous dedicated facilities, and a large-scale generator of tourism. The field encompasses meetings, conventions, festivals, expositions, sport and other special events. Event management is also of considerable importance to government agencies and not-for-profit organizations in a pursuit of a variety of goals, including fund-raising, the fostering of causes, and community development.
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