Marsha Ramroop offers insight into the benefits of authentic community engagement when exploring new development ideas
I could just leave this piece right there, that the value of
community engagement is millions of pounds.
Public consultation, planning approvals, stakeholder
management… it costs money, but are you pursuing community engagement so you
can proceed well? Or is it just “a thing” you “have to do” so you then get on
Of course, when you’ve not got it right, the locals tell
their council, and politicians who care about their seats can be swayed despite
any merits of a scheme itself… it can get expensive.
Every time you approach placemaking, understanding the local
context is necessary to be properly understanding. This should be factored in,
before there’s any design, plan or procurement. The engagement piece needs to
be done, not just by listening, but hearing what is being said.
Crucially, it’s not just what is being said, but who is
doing the talking. Who are you not hearing from? Is it just the loudest voices?
You can’t just rock up, or send round some surveys, and
think “that’s it, job done, I gave them a chance, but they didn’t say
Actively pursuing those who disagree with the development
idea is highly recommended. When you listen to those who disagree, and thoughtfully
consider their objections, you’re more likely to place-make in a meaningful and
This takes time and is an upfront cost. But doing it well in
the first instance, will save you cost and investment later.
You may have a large network of external stakeholders to deal
with, depending on your organisational context. This can range from talking to investors,
shareholders, clients and other business partners, as well as communities and
community organisations. It's like a big party, but with serious implications.
The key is understanding your stakeholders desires, expectations,
and interests. Trust me, they can be the heroes or villains in your inclusion story.
So, it's crucial for you to identify the needs, importance, power, and
influence of ALL of these external players. That way, you can spot opportunities
and potential risks that might affect your inclusion objectives, which then
feed into delivering Social Value. It's like playing chess, but with reputation
and social responsibility on the line.
Proper engagement with these external stakeholders is vital.
People care they’re being listened to, and that you listen
properly. So set some inclusion and Social Value goals and share those. And be
prepared to be held to account for them.
Communication is everything. When building those relationships,
make sure to showcase your Social Value principles and objectives. Let them
know you mean business when it comes to promoting inclusivity and diversity.
Oh, and don't forget the power of gossip! Keep an eye media
reports related to diversity and external stakeholders’ social media, and take
a keen interest in the hyperlocal news. By staying informed, you'll be on top
of the latest buzz and able to fine-tune your efforts accordingly.
Remember, sharing is caring! It's not just about sipping fancy
cocktails with stakeholders, but also exchanging points of view and expertise,
and spending time in your local community. Then the development idea becomes a
symbiotic relationship where everyone gets to strut their stuff and embrace
Actively engage as well as with subtlety. Communities can make or
break your objectives. Monitor their influence and impacts on your journey. If
they're helping you soar towards inclusion and diversity, fantastic! But if
they're throwing obstacles in your way, it's time to reassess and find areas
It is vital that you walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Visibly
genuine leadership and commitment to inclusion will pay dividends. If it’s not
genuine, communities will see through you immediately.
By measuring changes in the needs and influence of communities over
time, you'll have concrete evidence of your triumphs. And don't forget to pay
attention to feedback, both the good and the not-so-good. It's like getting a
performance review, but for your interaction and inclusion efforts.
Finally, building strong relationships with these communities is
the golden ticket. Rubbing shoulders with the crème de la crème of external
players can do wonders for your inclusion outcomes, even if the crème don’t
look like those you’d normally engage with.
It’s beneficial to engage with a diverse range of stakeholders, and
share knowledge and good practices. This could lead to public support for your
inclusion principles. And let's not forget the cherry on top—being recognised
and applauded for your unwavering commitment to inclusion and social
responsibility. Now, that's a reputation worth bragging about!
So, take a proactive, inclusive, and collaborative approach when
engaging with these communities. Make your mark on the inclusion landscape and
show the world that you mean business. Let's build a more inclusive and diverse
And build in value that goes beyond the millions, to real lives
enhanced, for generations to come.
You can hear more from Marsha at the Building People
Webinar on Context and Community - Better Engagement and Involvement on Thursday 29th June 13:00 - 14:00.
Book here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/context-and-community-better-engagement-and-involvement-tickets-574819830587