Charity unveils new blueprint for community engagement
A new guide has been published detailing how organisations can take the public with them when planning new building developments or other activities.
Based on joint research carried out with Scottish Water and the Customer Forum, the Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) report ‘Engaging hearts and minds’ captures the components of best practice community engagement, which we believe should be at the centre of organisations’ community engagement policy and practice.
The research found that good engagement must:
- Be inclusive, accessible and representative
- Ensure communities are fully involved in engagement programmes as early as possible
- Establish communities’ trust and confidence in engagement programmes
- Tailor engagement methods to individual communities
- Be flexible to respond to and incorporate community ideas and needs.
In addition, organisations must:
- Fully commit to delivering engagement programmes that genuinely enable communities to influence decision making
- Scope engagement programmes in detail to allocate appropriate time, finance and staff resources
- Engage external expertise where appropriate
- Evaluate the impact of the engagement
- Evidence to the community how their input has influenced decision making and outcomes.
Gail Walker, CAS spokesperson, said: “As Scotland’s main consumer body, we believe it is important that all organisations take the public with them when making major new developments. We have witnessed both good and bad practice, and so undertook this research to build a guide for any organisation that wishes to do things right way.
“Our report serves as a checklist for organisations to use to plan and evaluate their engagement with communities. This will support organisations to truly empowers consumers to influence the decisions that affect their lives and communities.
“For any agency or business, there are many benefits to proper community engagement. Building support for your activities in a local area will reduce problems of complaints and hostility in the long-term. It will also help you earn a reputation for being sensitive to communities in which you are building or developing, importantly building confidence and trust.
“We urge all organisations – both private and public – to take note of this report today. We publish it in the spirit of promoting good practice and better relationships between developers and local communities.”
Brian Lironi, director of corporate affairs at Scottish Water, added: “As an organisation with assets and customers in every corner of Scotland and an investment programme of more than £650m each year, we strive to have an active relationship with our communities.
“The days of big utilities or other organisation simply telling a community what they’re doing are in the past. We need active, two-way relationships with our customers and communities if we are to provide the services that they want and need and if we are to keep their trust and support.
“Increasingly, with the challenges we face from the climate emergency, we need communities to help us by playing their part by being more responsible about how they use water, waste water and other services. So there are very real business benefits from delivering best practice community engagement.
“I very much welcome this report and look forward to building its recommendations into our community engagement approaches in future.”