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Developing Engagement Activities and an Engagement Strategy

Explore how to go about setting up design engagement activities with the different groups of people that have an interest or stake in the building.

It is important to think about community engagement as a process in time. For a successful project there will be a number of different engagement activities, at different times, to meet different objectives.

For example, some activities will be open to everyone, some will be more focussed on specific types of users. And for each type of user, there may different ways to participate. It is important to create opportunities for people of different ages, cultural backgrounds, experiences and abilities to contribute in ways that are both meaningful and empowering. It is therefore useful to develop a community engagement strategy outlining a series of activities to involve different groups of people.

A engagement strategy should draw together a few different activities which can fulfil various objectives within the engagement strategy (eg. communicating project information, getting to know the local context, generating ideas, building capacity etc).

When developing or supporting the development of an engagement strategy you need to:

  • Map out the current and potential stakeholders and users of the building, from within and outside your worshipping community.
  • Reflect on the faith values and mission of the place of worship. Explore the types of activities that people want to see in the building and define ‘red lines’ with the congregants: which activities could promote, and which might compromise the faith practice and values?
  • Explore the history and heritage of the building and how it can be utilised to invite other people in and create a better place. Think about the potential impact of any changes on the architectural and cultural heritage of the place.
  • Think about the sustainability of the building in the long term and how its physical properties and a spectrum of activities can be used to help maintain its function as a place of worship in the future.

There are many different ways to engage people in design decisions about a place of worship. Here are some typical types of engagement activities:

Conversations:

Organise one-to-one or small group conversations around specific questions. A conversation may take place after worshiping, by visiting people, or more informally in parallel with other activities.

Spaces:

Set up digital or physical spaces where people can leave comments or feedback at their own time and convenience. A digital space may be a facebook group, a website forum or an online survey, whereas a physical space may be a feedback book or box available near the entrance of your building.

Meetings or workshops:

Organise meetings and workshops where people can come together to work on specific issues and ideas and to shape answers in a collaborative way.

Public events:

Organise events that would attract the wider community to share views and ideas. These can be held in your own building or can be part of other local places or events (such as a festival, or a market).

Prototyping:

These are temporary interventions that explore what different changes might mean in a lighter-touch way, before making any more significant or long-term decisions. Trialling possible changes to what happens in a community building and / or the design of that building can help make things more concrete, in terms of function, form and feeling and the impact on the building and its users.

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Enabling Community-Based Leadership in Design: Sustainable Development of Historic Faith Buildings

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