We are developing a strategy at the moment on how to engage with our local communities. This has been prompted by the election results and Cameron’s Big Society, but is also something that we have been pushing for a long time, aiming to get local people more involved and to take greater ownership of their services.
My team and I have been delivering this and working on it since 2003, and I have been involved since 2007, so we know a fair bit about what local people want to get involved with. They don’t usually want to worry about long term strategies and vague, abstract theoretical concepts – they want to focus on specific issues, short term wins and change that they can see. The engagement work that works the best is that which comes from a need identified by local people and results in a short term gain.
I’ve just read a brief to develop a community engagement strategy which details an approach which will spend the next six months asking the community and stakeholders how they want to be involved.
After that they will have a strategic level document which will have to then be translated into action plans and lower level documents until finally, one day, it might make a difference to an actual engagement activity that is delivered.
It also calls for a lot of stick rather than carrot – lots more checking up of project plans and cracking down on errant activities which will basically mean people either won’t tell us when they are doing these for fear of being stopped or will stop doing it all together. Even if they do tell us, the added workloads involved will make it a much more process driven piece and one which takes the focus off of the activity and on to bureaucracy. The additional time everything would entail would mean that an activity which could be thought up, planned and implemented in a number of weeks might then take months.
This is just a scoping paper at this stage, but I really hope they listen to me when I get engaged as I’ve got a few things to say during their consultation on consultations.