Involving your community in developing and managing your community asset project should be a key part of your plans. It can seem daunting if you haven’t done it before, but there are plenty of ideas that can help you get started.
It is vital to have the support of your community in order to ensure long-term success, and to demonstrate to relevant authorities that there is a need and demand for your project.
The publication "Involving Your Community" (download below) helps you to design appropriate plans for engaging with your community. The section Community Place Plans also help you to think through how you might approach this.
Effective community involvement is vital to ensure your project is a success. Involvement can range from informing and consultation to active engagement in taking decisions and implementing the project. The degree of involvement and the way of involving people has to be matched to your community, the needs of your project and the stage it is at.
Community involvement should be planned from the start of the project and should be a continuing part of the work. You may wish to undertake a Community Place Plan which can help to determine a wide range of needs and solutions to community issues that demonstrate your project as a good fit.
There are a range of approaches you can use and it is normally best to use a combination of them during the lifetime of a project. There are many sources of advice and support. A good place to start is to identify another project which has been successful in involving their local community and talk to them about their experience. Your COSS advisor can help with this. You may also wish to refer to the National Standards for Community Engagement.
Involving your community in your project from the outset and at every stage will bring benefits for your project, your organisation and your community. These can be summarised as:
For your project
- Ensuring that the project reflects local needs, has local support and does not have any adverse unintended consequences.
- Providing new ideas and different perspectives.
- Identifying new partners and collaborators.
- Finding people who can bring new skills, knowledge and experience to the project.
For your organisation
- Demonstrating your accountability to the community.
- Creating links with the community and ambassadors for the project and your organisation.
- Identifying and building new support, skills and experience that your organisation can potentially use for other projects and work in the future.
For your local community
- Strengthening local pride, sense of community and quality of life.
- Linking people together so that the social capital** of the community is increased and people feel empowered to take action on your project and other issues which are important to them.
- Encouraging volunteering.
- Seeing their views and ideas listened to and acted on and so developing a personal interest in your project.
- Providing an opportunity for volunteers to use their existing skills and experience and develop new ones.
- Feeling part of their community and meeting people.
- Gaining confidence.
For your stakeholders
- Giving your community, local authorities, funders and other organisations confidence that your project is rooted in community needs and has community support.
- Demonstrating the capacity of your organisation to involve and enthuse your community.
Gathering Additional Information
To enhance the information collected directly it is useful to refer to other evidence gathered by others. For example; your local authority may have relevant data on employability or areas of disadvantage, there may be reports from the National Health Service that would be useful to refer to. The resource below "Evidence from Elsewhere" helps you to research and use appropriate reference material when building your case.