11 top tips for community engagement

10 August 2017

In this piece, we talk about community engagement and look at what has been effective for Justice Prince when engaging with the community in their Local Conversation in Longbenton.

Engagement is a way to create relationships and build trust with local residents and different groups within the community. It’s important that the local people who are interacting with the project are able to feed back and influence the engagement process as it develops.

When planning and undertaking community engagement activities, it’s also important to keep in mind possible barriers to engagement, such as language, accessibility needs, the local environment, hard to reach groups and people’s availability to get involved.

Members of the community may want to be involved in the engagement process in different ways, such as attending events, being part of designing the engagement process or delivering activities.

Justice Prince in Longbenton have been engaging local residents in a variety of ways. Julie Cruddas, one of the co-founders, said that they have found that strategic, targeted engagement is one of the most effective ways to reach out to particular parts of the community - making sure they know who the target group is has been very important.

Julie said it is also important to remember, when undertaking community research and engagement, to make sure to focus on the positives and the strengths, as often people only raise the negative parts of their community. While identifying problems or issues is a good way to engage people, it’s also important to recognise the assets of the community.

Justice Prince have been engaging with older local residents and created their regular Conversation Corner sessions to reach out to older people at risk of becoming isolated. They started out by putting up notices and spending time in residential care homes to promote the project and talk to residents.

Initially, they came across some resistance inside the care homes from residents and care managers who were wary of the project. By keeping in touch and slowly working to build relationships, they overcame this and there is now a regular group who meet for tea and cake every week. These sessions have been shaped by what the residents wanted to do, and what they felt most comfortable with.

Being flexible is one of the most important things to remember when engaging local people. It’s important to make sure there is space for people to come in and out of the project as they need to, and to always keep the project open. Activities need to be able to cope with the flux of people coming in and coming out.

People have a range of responsibilities and events happening in their lives which may mean they need to disengage for a while. Keeping in touch even when they aren’t able to be involved helps to encourage them to take part again when they are able to.

There isn’t one method that fits all, and engagement is an on-going process of reaching out to a range of people to hear their ideas and opinions, and to involve them in decisions and activities happening in their local area.

 

11 top tips for engagement

These top tips for engaging the local community come from organisations delivering Local Conversation projects.

  1. Conversations are key

Building relationships and making meaningful connections are the best way to encourage people to get involved.

  1. Make it personal

Get to know the people you are engaging with, their needs and how they would like to get involved.

  1. Meet people where they are

Make it easy and comfortable for people to get involved in the project by going to meet people in familiar places where they usually spend time.

  1. Don’t make assumptions

Don’t assume people will or won’t want to get involved, or that they are already aware of the project.

  1. Keep it varied and flexible

Use a range of techniques and activities to engage people. Residents will get involved in different ways throughout the project so make sure it’s easy for people to get involved in a way that suits them.

  1. Make use of all of the community’s space

Hold events at different venues to reach different members of the community.

  1. Be visible and be available

Make sure people know about the project and that they can easily get involved and ask questions.

  1. Map the community

Get to know the different areas and groups in the community, and tailor your engagement to suit different people.

  1. Know the context

Make sure you are aware of any external factors which may influence how people engage with the project.

  1. Keep an open mind

Be warm and friendly and keep in mind people’s other responsibilities.

  1. Keep in touch

Feedback on progress to keep people updated even if there isn’t a lot of activity happening, you can still remind people of the ways they can get involved.

 

To connect with Justice Prince, click here.

To read more blogs from the Trust, click here.

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