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Community engagement guide

A guide to involving local communities in the earliest planning stage of regenerating, developing or constructing public open space.

Creating and managing places that can be used and enjoyed by people who live nearby helps to ensure that places are sustainable.

Involving local people in development decisions helps to ensure that the eventual designs are appropriate, enjoyable, well used, and cared for by the community. It is vital to involve local communities in the earliest planning stage of regenerating, developing or constructing public open space.

Overview of Community engagement process

The community engagement process breaks down into a number of different activities. The following is a rough guide of the stages of community consultation.

  1. Find people – actively seek out disengaged people
  2. Cultivate your connections
  3. Prepare your activities
  4. Prepare your venue
  5. Run your events
  6. Run supplementary information gathering
  7. Assess the results and integrate these into your planning
  8. Distribute the findings and plans to your partners
  9. Maintain the partnerships

See downloadable brochure for more detail on each stage.

Preparation is key

The whole experience of the engagement process should be as pleasant as possible for everyone involved. If you stress that it’s about ‘engaging’ rather than ‘consulting’, this may help to clarify the nature of the session beforehand.

Top Tips

  • Decide how best to arrange the consultation groups: how many days, what activities will you offer, what groups would work well together and so on.
  • Make sure everyone has enough information about the project before they come.
  • Create information and activities that are accessible and will yield meaningful feedback.
  • Arrange catering and additional support such as BSL signers if required.
  • Send out schedules for the day in good time; particularly to people with learning disabilities or their representatives so they can prepare for the day and reduces anxieties about what the day will hold for them

How to facilitate a Community Engagement session

  • Set out the guidelines at the beginning of the activity session to help steer the group in a positive direction
  • Schedules for groups, if required should go out before the session to enable everyone to familiarise themselves.
  • Create an atmosphere that allows people to feel able to comment without fear. Be careful not to allow personal or organisational goals to steer the process.
  • Tailor your activities and techniques depending on the age and ability of the group.
  • Where possible, host the session within the public space itself.