Our projects and services are informed by a proven model of community engagement, which has been developed by our patron, Lord Patel and used successfully for central government and a range of regional and local partner agencies. The key principles of the model are:
- clear identification of the issue
- funded and focused work undertaken by a local communities
- adequate resources
- on-going guidance, advice and support
- the provision of training
- stakeholder commitment from the outset and throughout the process
- capacity building for communities and stakeholders inherent in the process
- organisational change
This model is distinguished by the way it dynamically engages communities and individuals through their direct collaboration with a wide range of service providers and planners. It has previously been implemented successfully across a wide variety of communities. These programmes have been commissioned specifically to address recognised gaps in the engagement of marginalised and excluded communities in meaningful and sustained ways in the design, development and delivery of a range of public and voluntary sector services.
A significant amount of the funding of community engagement programmes is allocated to local people, enabling them to undertake engagement activities. Evidence has shown that where individuals receive some form of payment for the work they undertake the ownership, commitment and sense of being valued is greatly enhanced.
The engagement process in itself will have a number of outcomes, both for the communities and agencies involved: raising awareness of the issue in question and the local services available; reducing stigma, fear, and denial of the issue for communities; identifying and articulating the needs of the target community including the barriers to appropriate service access and use, ensuring local ownership and clear plans for sustaining engagement activities; and the sustainability of the partnerships that have been established.
The community engagement workers and volunteers can access several hundred people within their local areas. The activities they carry out also raise awareness about key issues, and elicit information from the community about a range of concerns and ideas. Through an Exchange Forum of local stakeholders established to oversee the project, would enable the community engagement workers and volunteers to work collaboratively with local agencies on identifying solutions to address these issues.
The exchange forum (steering group) is a key ingredient of the community engagement model. It is crucial that the work that is undertaken is fed into local planning and delivery structures on an on-going basis in order to identify existing barriers, implement examples of good practice, and achieve long-term sustainability. The active involvement of agencies, community engagement workers and volunteers working together is also a key component of developing community reassurance that issues they have raised are being effectively listened to and addressed.