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Making Engagement Count

Learn why it is important to record community engagement activities and their outcomes.

Funders and grant-givers like to understand what engagement has been undertaken so they get a sense of how their grant will impact the wider community. It is therefore important to record all the community and stakeholder activities, such as surveys, information events and/or workshops.

Making a record of the events sounds a simple task, but too often it comes as an afterthought and in the end, only a few social media images are available as evidence of the interaction. An engagement strategy can also help develop a way to log and report the interactions that are undertaken during the engagement and design process, which can take a few years of brief and design development. Engagement strategies can also help in making sure the engagement process is as inclusive and accessible as possible.

An example

Read this example to see how capturing engagement can benefit funding raising for the project

St Mary’s church in Bideford, a rural town in South-West England, had a growing congregation of 30, and on occasion up to 120 people as a gathered church at weekend mass. As other places worship in the wider area reduced services or closed, the church saw an influx of new worshippers. As a response, they wanted to transform their place to be more accessible and inclusive for their congregation and wider community users.

To help develop their design approach, they organised an open day. The aim was to welcome the wider community, get people’s views about the place and share their vision for change. One of the activities they used was to ask people to write at the back of specially made postcards what the church meant to them. The postcards were then placed on a washing line for others to see and reflect on. During the day, which also included tours of the church, they shared some initial sketches of their vision and discussed them over tea and cake. The day was well attended and many cards were signed and added to the washing line.

a washing line with postcards describing a church and people's experiences and feeling about the place

The activity gave the group a written record of what people thought about the place. One person in the steering group collated and transcribed all the writing on the cards, and tallied the total number of people attending the day as a whole and the number of cards signed.

When it came to writing a funding bid for a small start-up grant to explore their ideas and do initial repairs, they used the data and quotes from the postcards. This provided evidence that they had engaged the community in a meaningful way and that what people thought about the place was taken into consideration. The grant givers came back to them and mentioned that the engagement information was vital in them being awarded the grant.

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