Why Community Compensation Matters

Giving expertise and experience in a meaningful and ongoing way is a significant time commitment for residents. As a volunteer, the work being asked, plus relationship-building with local governments, is a lot to do.

People from our most vulnerable and affected communities often have fewer resources to dedicate outside their home and work duties. These and other barriers create unfair burdens on marginalized residents. Our teams recognize that community expertise is invaluable, so we should fairly compensate people for their time and remove other barriers to civic engagement.

Community Compensation

Community Compensation

Co-creation, community engagement, and community compensation are not new to King County. However, not all departments and policies take the same approach when connecting with residents. These inconsistencies affect our most vulnerable and historically marginalized communities the most.

We seek input and collaboration on projects from the people we will impact the greatest, so we need to create equitable pathways for them to participate in the process. Unpaid time is a significant barrier to engagement—especially for people of marginalized communities.

We value the time, experience, and expertise that community members bring, so creating equitable models and standards for compensation is vital to our commitments to anti-racism and pro-equity initiatives.

Co-Creation title card


Co-creation is a mindset and approach to working with the community to tackle specific challenges. It uses a participatory process that assumes shared power, responsibility, accountability, and decision-making.

Co-creation involves engaging with community members on strategy. We rely on their experience and expertise to identify and frame problems. People actively inform work plans and policies through this approach to create solutions.

It's not easy, and there aren't shortcuts!

Co-creation is a social and relational process that brings people together to learn and engage with each other. It requires cultivating dialogue, trust, and safe learning spaces. More than just pre-defined processes and tools, co-creation is an attitude. Facilitators take the role of stewards and connectors—not experts.

Traditional government models create "top-down" works and only engage community members at the end of the process. They do this through surveys, indirect communication, or polls. Co-creation instead invests in community-led innovation to shape the design and delivery of new projects.

Community Engagement -

Community Engagement

Community engagement is working collaboratively with and through groups of people. Often they are connected by geography, interests, or likeness and come together to address issues affecting the collective wellbeing.

There is no perfect model for engagement since it depends on who you're engaging with. But there are principles, strategies, approaches, and tools to keep people informed and involved. There are also aspects of consulting and empowering communities.

Community Engagement and Co-Creation—what's the difference?

Engagement is an integral part of co-creation, and some of the concepts certainly overlap. Everyone will have their definition and implementation of each. But many people agree that the aspects of shared power and shaping the design and strategy are more co-creation.

You can engage communities on a project without the intentional co-creation process, but not the other way around. Some people see co-creation as the evolution of traditional engagement models.

Question title

Please ask questions about the project. We will use them to inform our future communications!

Closed for Comments

Learn more about the OESJ Community Engagement and Co-Creation team and our other bodies of work.

For questions or comments, please reach out to CECteam@kingcounty.gov.

Inventory of Existing County Projects

May 2022 — June 2022

Root Cause Equity Consulting will collect data and samples from departments and agencies on current and past community compensation practices.

This process will help us establish a baseline for future County policies by identifying common themes, strategies, and structures.

Environmental Scan

June July 2022

Root Cause will develop a survey and conduct interviews and other engagements with similar organizations that provide compensation in their co-creation processes.

Additionally, we will collect materials and resources to share on the topic to begin creating enterprise-wide best practices as they develop.

Community Engagement

July 2022

Root Cause will host community listening sessions for people impacted by this work. We value input from community members that have participated in previous County projects.

We will identify and collect data on barriers and challenges and build on positive experiences from these communities.

Staff Engagement

August 2022

Root Cause will host staff listening sessions to collect insight from groups that have led co-creation projects or initiatives which compensate community members.

In addition, we will examine potential challenges and barriers around approaches for this work and address non-alignment with existing policy.

Analysis of Fair & Equitable Compensation

August 2022 — October 2022

Root Cause will develop and propose recommended compensation models and ranges for community members that reflect their time and expertise shared.

We will consider factors like similar agency models, the cost of living, input from the community, and comparative County jobs.

Final Report

October 2022 — January 2023

Root Cause will deliver a final report that provides tools and resources that serve as an operating manual for the County. This toolkit will allow staff to replicate compensation models through shared practices consistently.

The final report will also provide recommendations for policy to allow teams the flexibility to meet the unique challenges in their communities.


January 2023 — March 2023

The CEC Team is partnering internally to create proposed legislative changes that could allow currently ineligible groups to receive compensation for volunteering on boards and commissions. 

We are also creating a working guidance document that combines findings from the Root Cause report and WA State guidance on Community Compensation.

This shared guidance aims to move King County closer to having unified approaches and practices to create more equitable volunteerism and remove barriers to civic participation for communities furthest from these opportunities.