How to put communities at the centre of change

What can local authorities do to drive engagement and transform services?

Collaboration with communities is a key way for local authorities to boost engagement and improve their services. Here are our top tips for how they can switch to a more collaborative approach:

1. Address the big issues

Financial pressures, challenges created by the pandemic, and the need to achieve net-zero, are at the front of everyone’s minds. Not only should local authorities focus on improving their local area, but they should also engage with communities to address the issues that impact everyone. This way, goals can be met more effectively and efficiently, including addressing ongoing budget pressures.

2. Use local knowledge

By reaching out to residents before going ahead with plans for a new project or initiative, local authorities can be sure that time and money are being put towards services that will truly benefit the community. Communities will also be more receptive to change if they are engaged with throughout the process.

3. Know the community

Effective engagement isn’t possible without knowing the ins and outs of the local people. Accurate data about the community’s demographics can make sure services are more targeted. Furthermore this means underrepresented groups are catered for.

4. Find the right balance

While communicating with local people is vital, too much consultation can lead to them feeling overwhelmed, and therefore becoming less willing to engage. Subsequently, by listening to the right people at the right time, this can be avoided.

5. Manage expectations

People want to know exactly what is being done with their feedback and how it will feed into service improvement. As such, it’s important to communicate this from the outset whenever sending out a survey or holding a consultation.

6. Make the most of resources available

Lack of budget is a challenge for many local authorities. Therefore to ensure the maximum value is gained from collaboration, it’s essential to make the most of all available assets and resources. For example, this might involve expanding the remit of a library to include information and volunteering centres.

Working alongside local people and communities can help authorities to make more informed decisions, and in turn improve the lives of those in the community. By keeping communication open and honest, and addressing concerns when needed, a perfect partnership can be created.

For more information, contact Peter Marsden or Julie Smith here.

Photo by Benjamin Elliott on Unsplash

Published: Feb 3, 2022

By Julie Smith

Senior consultant

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