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The value of community engagement

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 and develop?

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.

So, millions.

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 anything”.

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 successful way.

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 positive perspectives.

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 for improvement.

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 society together.

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:


Marsha Ramroop

June 2023

27/06/2023 09:32:17

Blog, Collaboration