Before you begin to consider the wider implications of running a community project, it is best to start with a relatively simple question - what exactly is it you want to achieve?
The need for improvement within a community can, in some cases, be fairly obvious. In other areas, the needs and priorities may be less clear. The very fact you are looking to get a project off the ground though would indicate you are aware of some of the needs and may have even spoken to others about the issue. But now is a good time to take a step back to test your assumptions and talk with the wider community if you haven't already.
Before you get stuck into the planning you should have a clear vision of what your objectives are. You may want to tackle a particular problem within your area such as sites of antisocial behaviour or lack of play provision for example. You may want to provide a green space of some kind or develop an existing area. These objectives set out what you hope to accomplish for your community and will be key in garnering support for your project.
The importance of defining your project cannot be stated enough as an unfocused project may be difficult for residents to get behind and will not inspire confidence in any potential funders.
Here are a few questions to keep in mind when defining your project:
- what is the need or issue you want to address with your project?
- what evidence is there that this need exists?
- what are the reasons for the need?
- why is your project an appropriate response to this need?
- Are there any local strategies, organisations or initiatives already working in this area? If so, how will your project fit in?
Identifying the needs of your community will inform the objectives of your project but consultation with residents will be what defines how you complete these objectives.
Consultation is a vital aspect of your planning as it will help steer your project into providing something that the whole community actually wants and needs. Meaningful consultation will pay off by making the project delivery easier and ensure the long term success of the scheme. We've seen plenty of cases where a well-intentioned scheme has been put in place without consultation only to be underused because it is poorly located, or even vandalised because people didn't feel involved in the decision making process.
Find out more about the best approaches and practical tips to make your consultation go smoothly in the Community consultations section.