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7.3 Maintaining involvement

Community groups spring up for a variety of reasons. Whether it is to fight against or show support for a new development, the issue is how to maintain this interest after the perceived task has been accomplished.

Groups are often formed as a result of several local individual activists joining together. These people are the primary determining factor in the lifespan of the group. The problem is that these groups may diminish as the initial aims and objectives are perceived to have been achieved. Longevity is not the prominent feature of this type of structure. This can be issue if the project is designed to be a long term and sustainable proposition.

In this section we will address the issue of maintaining involvement and propose some measures that will protect the project over time.

Ideas to help maintain group involvement in the project

  • Build relationships with other community groups - a network of groups sharing ideas, resources, offering feedback on current projects and helping each other will negate the feeling that the project is finished.
  • It can be difficult to know which other groups exist and how to contact them - a list of local community groups is available on the local government website - see useful links.
  • Look at the potential lack of resources and money as a challenge - we have already looked at extra income streams and further funding - the next project for the group is developing these ideas and coming up with some of their own.
  • Ensure that all lines of communication are kept open - a weekly community newsletter perhaps? Keep everyone involved.
  • In relation to the above, use these lines of communication to start thinking about the next project - providing the existing project is maintained there is no reason not to start a new one.
  • Initiate training schemes for members of the group - anything from environmental to IT skills - not only will it convince them that the project still has a purpose but if the skills are directly related to the project it will help with future maintenance and sustainability.
  • You can tie the above into your newly formed network of community groups with visits to other projects and potential offsite training.

Managing change

There will be stage in a long term project where people will leave or the ownership of a project may swap to another group or authority. Remember that the project exists away from its group as an ongoing proposition. As long as this change has been planned for it can potentially be used as new revitalising chapter in the projects development.

A few tips to managing this change and planning for continuity:

  • Encourage people to think about their role in the future of the project and how they see this developing.
  • Make space for members of the community to develop their role in the project, and increase their levels of responsibility, for example by suggesting that other people run meetings, order materials, book venues etc.
  • Ensure that skill gaps are addressed as discussed above. Investigate training and other opportunities for group members.
  • Work to build up a network of contacts with other groups, useful organisations and support services so the group isn't so dependent on its initial set up.

Hopefully this section has illustrated how you can keep a project alive by developing new ways to enthuse the group and turn the fear of change into a new opportunity for all.

Go to the next section - Safeguarding the site

Useful links

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