Communities across the country are regularly asked by local and central government to adapt to a wide range of measures, which will have been introduced for a variety of reasons. These reasons range from environmental considerations, such as ULEZ to reduce carbon emissions in urban areas, to efficiency measures, such as online self-service to access council services. Whatever the measure taken, members of communities are often required to make significant changes to their way of life. Local authorities need to adopt the right approach to make any transition as seamless as they can and persuade the community to embrace the change as far as possible
A top-down, paternalistic approach of ‘Council knows best’ is likely to cause, at the very least, resentment and, at the worst, an outright refusal to comply. In order to achieve the best outcome for everyone, it’s crucial to engage properly with every community affected. This, of course, is often easier said than done and requires careful planning at every stage.
In our wide-ranging experience of assisting councils up and down the country, we have identified a few golden rules when it comes to community engagement.
- Firstly, and arguably most importantly, it’s necessary to focus on impact and outcomes and don’t lose sight of these. In other words, know what it is you are trying to achieve, why you are doing it and how it will make things better.
- Next, come to the project being single-minded about what you want from it but remain open minded, both about what you might find and also about the best way of getting there.
- Consider your key audiences and your key messages. Do you really know who they are? What exactly do you need them to understand? Are there different messages for different audiences?
- How will you engage with your audiences? With a multitude of different methods of communication available, such as local papers, town hall meetings, radio, online noticeboards and social media, a variety of different methods will be required to make sure every channel is optimised. Whatever the method you choose, are you facilitating engagement from everybody? Identify ways in which you can reach everyone to ensure nobody is missed. Very often it is those in the highest need who are hardest to reach.
- Don’t just transmit! Listening is crucial. Gather feedback wherever you can and then take all comments on board. Make sure you then feedback in turn to explain what steps you have taken as a result of listening.
When it comes to community engagement, C.Co will work with you to achieve outcomes you need via evidence-based solutions. From the future delivery of adult social care services through to library and leisure consultation and reviews we support organisations with solutions for all aspects of change management, enabling successful improvement and transformation across the public sector.
Speak to us to find out how we can help you.