Forget the theoretical models – this is a guide to hands-on ‘real’ community engagement, where councillors, officers and other stakeholders alike can work together for the good of communities no matter where they are or what the issues.
At this time more than ever, it is becoming more and more apparent that the focus of the elected member needs to be on the reality of their community leadership role, not simply the political aspects that got them elected in the first place.
Whilst it is the membership of a political party and the accompanying support of the electorate that allows a party candidate to walk through the doors of a Civic Centre or Town Hall as an elected member of the Council, it is at that point that the political aspects should be left – or their importance at least significantly diminished – if a member is to adequately and successfully build their relationship, work and reputation with the whole community they have been elected to serve, not just their political supporters. The focus needs to change.
Recent and highly tragic events in the news have highlighted a lack of communication and understanding between local authorities and their communities, giving rise to a culture of suspicion, division and broken relationships. For an elected member, and the wider Council, to be successful and fit for purpose as a community leader, this relationship needs to be reconciled and strengthened and the trust and cooperation so often missing to be restored. Councillors cannot afford to be perceived as remote from their communities, nor expect officers to simply get on with it. Challenging levels of resource cuts often means there are no – or at least limited numbers of – staff, and very limited budgets available to them to assist with community engagement activities and bolster a flagging relationship between the Council and its communities. Councillors need to be more involved, more visible and more accessible, standing by communities to lead from the front and inform the design of services and policy in challenging times.
Delegates will gain:
- A practical understanding of what community engagement is, why it is important in Local Authorities today
- The difference between being an elected party political member and an elected member of the Council as community leader
- How to write a community engagement strategy or action plan, using a joined up approach to include and involve the community and all other stakeholders
- Putting strategy into practice
Delegates should bring with them an example of an issue or problem within their community or Council that they would like to address through better community engagement.
09:30 Registration & refreshments
10:00 Welcome and introductions
- Introduce yourself
- Motivations for attending today
- What do you do in the other non-Council part of your life?
10:15 So You’ve Been Elected – Congratulations!
How did you get here?
What were your motivations?
What did you understand your role as an elected member to be?
10:45 So You’ve Been Elected – Now What?
How do you think your new role enables you to influence Council policy, services and outcomes for
residents and stakeholders?
What else do you think your role is responsible for other than that?
Where does the politics fit in? Or does it/should it?
11.15 Putting it into context – Community Engagement
- What is it?
- Why is it important?
- The ladder of engagement
12:00 A little piece of history
A look at Government led community engagement initiatives in the past twenty years
Traditional methods of on- the -ground community engagement
12:30 Ladder of engagement
Where do you think your Council is on the ladder?
Thinking of some real examples to add to the ladder/different rungs/stages
Could it/should it be better?
12:45 How can you get to know your community better?
Relationship with voluntary and community sector
Being visible and reaching out
13:45 Putting engagement into practice
Where have you seen (in your opinion):
- Examples of good engagement between Councils and communities – why is it good?
- Examples of bad/inadequate engagement between Councils and communities
- What are the key ingredients missing in the second?
14:15 Writing an engagement strategy for – and with – your community
- Relationship between elected members and officers
- What resources are available to you
- Who do you need to work with?
- Multi organisational approach
- Council as community leader
14:45 What could good community engagement look like in your local authority
Thinking of an issue or potential project in your local authority, how would you engage the community and relevant stakeholders and partner organisations into a joined – up approach to achieving a stronger community, better service or required outcome.
15:15 Final comments