I wrote this some years ago, but in the last few weeks i’ve had reason to dig it out and share it with people, so i figured it was worth posting here too….
It probably doesnt tell you anything you don’t know already…but hopefully serves as a useful reminder when thinking about involving people in a meaningful way.
I’d be interested to hear your own tips and hints on engagement and participation too, as well as any comments on mine.
Toby’s 10 Top Tips for Effective Participation
1. Built in not bolted on
Effective community engagement means thinking about it at the outset. Involving people at every stage of the process can greatly improve the quality and the sense of ownership with what’s happening.
2. Kill apathy as a concept
Despite a widespread belief that people aren’t interested, the reality is that they do care about the issues that affect them. Start where people are at, not where you want them to be.
3. Be clear about the constraints
Don’t promise the world if you can’t deliver it! It’s better to offer something small you can deliver than to offer something big that you can’t. Try to be clear where the boundaries are, who makes the final decisions and what resources are available.
4. It’s a marathon not a sprint
Delivering change and regenerating communities takes a long time. Be prepared for the long haul; everyone gets disheartened if things take forever to happen, but try be realistic about how long things take too.
5. Communication x10
Show what has been achieved – it’s not just about doing it’s about letting people know how things are going. Make sure you let people know what is going on—information is always the first stage! Two-way dialogue is critical to any change process.
6. Have a champion
The most successful strategies have someone – or often lots of people at different levels – pushing them forward who really believes in the cause. If community engagement is important, make sure it’s included as part of people’s roles.
7. Make it meaningful
Remember that any plans you make should lead to action. Everyone gets bored of participating when nothing is actually happening. As people see things happening, confidence in the process will follow and soon there’ll be no holding them back!
8. Assess your goals at every stage
Keep asking yourself—is what we are trying to do realistic? Targets should be clear and achievable (SMART) and have milestones along the way. But don’t be afraid to change direction as you go along if that makes more sense.
9. Be prepared to be unprepared
If you think you know exactly what’s going to happen, it’s probably not engagement. Don’t try to stifle or control the process too much. Be flexible and prepared to respond to what’s happening around you.
10. Have fun!
Anything new can be scary but remember to have fun! Fun is not the F-word and if you want people to get involved it’s got to appeal. After all, well-being is important to us all.