It’s The Taking Part That Counts

3 November 2017

Participation lies at the heart of everything we do. But without due care, participation can be unequal: the ‘usual suspects’ with the loudest voices participate regularly, while others feel their contribution is unimportant.

We believe everyone possesses valuable insight and has the right to get involved in shaping their local neighbourhood, no matter their age, ability, employment, income, politics, faith, ethnicity, or any other factor. So that our projects develop from an understanding of a representative array of local people’s voices, we work hard to ensure inclusive participation. Here’s our brief guide:

1. Meaningful outreach:
Map the local community and understand its diversity. Identify and sensitively contact all the resident groups, faith centres, youth programmes, care homes, schools and other community facilities. Ensure the mapping process is participatory by asking people what you’re missing and who else needs to be included.

2. Go where people feel comfortable:
Large public meetings can be intimidating for some. Visit people in places that suit them and where they feel comfortable to speak openly one-to-one or in a focus group setting.

3. Ensure participation does not require too much time:
Do what you can to reach people in their daily lives, understanding that people have work and family commitments and should be able to participate even with minimal spare time. Talk to people outside stations or on the street, visit shop owners in their businesses, allow people to comment online.

4. Put people at ease:
Be friendly and positive when speaking to people and listen, listen, listen. Don’t put pressure on people and don’t chase them if they don’t want to be chased.

5. Bring different groups together:
Once the outreach and initial engagement is completed, bring a broad group of people together and facilitate a balanced dialogue between contrasting views. This helps people understand the bigger picture, empathise with others and build relationships that strengthen equal participation.

6. Don’t just listen to the loudest voices:
No matter how much outreach you do, there
will always be particular people who give
more feedback, communicate more regularly, come to more events and make more noise. Always remember each individual’s feedback holds equal weight.

7. Check at every stage:
Establishing a feedback loop is vital – regularly summarise and disseminate your findings to the community, enabling the opportunity for tweaks and clarifications, agreeing the points before moving on to the next stage.