Why you need to engage your community
Your neighbourhood is full of amazing people with all sorts of skills and knowledge — it makes sense to get them involved. Community engagement is a great way to tap into local knowledge and solve problems. Not everyone will participate to the same degree, but everyone should have the opportunity to take part in some way, even if it’s just having the chance to tell you what they think. For example, you might propose a community garden and find out that everyone actually wants a play area!
It doesn’t matter how big or small the project is; if it’s going to make a difference to your neighbourhood you’ll need some help, and that usually means volunteers. Holding a community engagement event will give you the chance to sound out people about how they think the neighbourhood could be improved and find out who is interested in helping.
Most funders and planners will only take a community project seriously if you can prove that there is a ‘need’ for it. You’ll need to be able to show that people support the project, and ideally that they’ve taken part in its design. Funders will also expect you to show how successful the project was and that could include positive feedback from the wider community.
Community engagement isn’t just about asking people what they want — it’s also a chance to inspire them with new ideas and ways of doing things. Show people the incredible variety of community gardens and their uses, and they’ll stop thinking it’s all about turnips and sheds and start to use their imaginations. Ask them where it should be and you might end up designing a rooftop garden or ‘guerrilla gardening’ a roundabout.