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4.3 Community participation


Getting people involved in the project will be crucial to both its short and long term success. You are not just consulting them, by engaging the community in the planning, development, delivering and management of the project you are giving them a stake in its long term sustainability and a pride in what it achieves.

Some of the information below may be more relevant to larger projects but it will contain ideas about generating and managing participation that will be relevant to all those trying to make a project happen. One of the main aims or objectives of a community project should be community cohesion and the best way to do this is through participation in the process. Although this may be harder to quantify than the physical manifestation of a new playground/ regeneration of a landscape it is still measurable and in no way less important.


Timing

Central to the success of any community project is time: and how best to use it. Community participation will require more efficient time management than if the project was being implemented by one group with one timetable.

A few points to consider

  • Always be aware that people external to the project will have different timetables.
  • Is access to the land time restricted (i.e. school grounds) and will this affect the level of participation?
  • Within your project timeline factor small short term objectives "quick wins" - this will show the community that change is possible and their participation is making a difference. These can also be good anchor points for monitoring and evaluation schemes - see planning section of "getting started" for information

Please remember community participation in the project may be predominately voluntary and a person's most precious commodity is time. If this time is managed well your project can become a space that the whole community has a stake in.


Training and development

This is a crucial part of getting the community to participate. Not only will they get satisfaction from producing something but they may also learn skills that will benefit them in the future. The following link to the Governments skills and training website may be useful - it also contains a national register of training providers.

Points to consider:

  • What skill sets already exist within the community that can be utilised?
  • Is training part of the budget and timetable?
  • Are there any specific requirements needed to participate in this stage of the project (e.g. CRB check/professional trade qualifications)?
  • Unless specifically required qualifications need to be balanced by experience. Soft life skills and a knowledge and experience of the community cannot be taught or quantified but may be priceless to a community led project.

One of the best ways to involve local people can be to employ them! Employing local people to work in their own community can have several advantages – they will be motivated, aware of local issues, the state of the local environment and have key local contacts. This will immediately make the community stakeholders and cut down on the time and resources required to establish the project. This of course must be balanced with current and ongoing employment costs and any legal issues that concern employing someone. Please ensure that if this something you are considering this it is budgeted for in the plan. We do deal with the legalities of the project process in the next section but please follow this link for more information on employing someone for the first time.


Resourcing participation

Effective participation takes time and costs money. There should be a clear budget, people to run the process, and the budget should be made clear to those being asked to participate.

Estimates vary as to how much of the budget should be allocated to this. Some guidelines indicate as little 1% but on some community projects it can be as high as a third. This, like any other component of the project, must be judged against the objectives to see how cost effective it is in relation to what you are trying to achieve. The most important objective of any community project is its successful long term completion and this must be judged against the potential for spiralling community participation costs.

community participation

Some of the potential costs to consider when looking at how best to resource this participation:

  • Staff time costs
  • Costs of publicity / survey materials
  • Costs of venues for discussions, community event costs etc.
  • Costs of analysing data and producing report
  • Community event costs
  • Staff training costs
  • Cost of external facilitator (if you need / want / can afford one)
  • Volunteers expenses
  • Costs of volunteer time (include this - even if you cannot pay them, this should be recognised in the budget as an 'in-kind' contribution)
  • If a survey is undertaken, you could include costs of training for those helping with a survey (people learn skills as they help do the survey)

This shows that participative working can be expensive, but this cost may be quite legitimate. As such it should be valued, and the best way to get it resourced is to identify it clearly in fundraising bids, and to explain that it is an integral part of the project. Every bit of work has value and it is important that this is recorded and costed.


We hope that this section has given you some ideas on how to increase community participation in the project. Please remember that we are not talking about the community participating in the completed project. That is covered in "making it last" section and is more concerned with ensuring that the end product is visible and still engages the community in a sustainable and long term way.

This section is about trying to physically engage the community in the creation of the project and forming a connection that will help to ensure long term sustainability.

Remember

  • Get people involved in hands-on activities such as weeding, clearing paths, picking litter, planting etc. (as employees or volunteers).
  • Involve project representatives in all stages of the contract process.
  • Keep people informed on the progress of the project.
  • Celebrate milestones with community events to maintain interest in the project.

Go to the next section - Working with other organisations


Useful links

Consultation training

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