A series of outreach events and door-to-door engagements that took place in Priesthill and Househillwood in 2015-16. What Works Scotland compared the two approaches to determine the best method of community consultation for the Community Development Officer.
Problems and Purpose
What Works Scotland facilitated a group of practitioners to conduct case studies, and describes the findings of one case study on approaches to community consultation conducted by the Community Development Officer for Priesthill and Househillwood Thriving Places area. The purpose was therefore to determine what method is best to avoid these pitfalls and produce an approach that exemplifies community consultation and engagement.
Background History and Context
The Glasgow Community Planning Partnership (CPP) brings together key public, private, community, and voluntary representatives to deliver better, more efficient public services. They stated in their 2014/15 report that ‘’The purpose of Community Planning is better partnership working.’’ In 2015 the CPP agreed that What Works Scotland could develop a programme for a number of practitioners involved with Thriving Places to improve their ability to capture evidence using case studies. They argue that case studies do not gloss over complications, so are ideal for learning in the complex context of Thriving Places. Priesthill and Househillwood have previously been affected by Local Regeneration Plans (such as the SIP), and lessons must be learned to avoid a situation where engagement feels tokenistic or exploitative, as McWilliams (2004) previously found.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
From late-2015 to December 2016, five Thriving Places workers and one community activist worked as a Case Study Development Group, facilitated by Richard Brunner (Research Associate, University of Glasgow and What Works Scotland) using a Collaborative Action Research (CAR) model. This initiative was part of the wider CAR work between Glasgow CPP and What Works Scotland. The project was undertaken as part of Thriving Places, which is a project with a ten-year commitment to combat inequalities and achieve better outcomes for residents in nine neighbourhoods in Glasgow experiencing high levels of deprivation. Practitioners in Glasgow and What Works Scotland worked together to produce case studies on the consultations to present evidence of the work from the city’s Thriving Places. The case studies was produced by Anthony Morrow, Community Development Officer for Sanctuary Group in Priesthill and Househillwood Thriving Places.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Participation in the outreach events was self-selecting, and open to anyone to attend.
The door-to-door conversations targeted those residents who may have been unable to attend the charrette events.
Methods and Tools Used
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
In late-2015, Thriving Places partner organisations suggested to community representatives that running a charrette programme would be a positive start in understanding what the community wanted and needed through Thriving Places. During the charrette process itself, two explicit ‘consultation’ methods were used, open outreach events and door-to-door conversations.
The initial ‘charette’ idea was proposed to Neighbourhood Forum on October 7th, 2015, with the final application submitted in October 2015. Planning meetings for charrettes ran weekly from 21st October until 18th November 2015. This was followed by the two outreach events taking place on the 23rd and 25th November. The door-to-door conversations occurred on the 24th November. Following the charrette outreach events, a ‘Development Day’ was held for community members, workers, and strategic partners to discuss the main recurring 6 issues and to set-up theme groups that would be tasked with leading on actions that addressed these issues.
There were two separate full-day events; the first was held on 23rd November in Househillwood Park and the second on 25th November in St. Christopher’s Church, Priesthill. These events provided residents with the opportunity to speak to workers from the area about issues they felt affected community life. They also provided activities for residents to get involved with, including Christmas Wreath making, a raffle, hand massages and rickshaw rides. Hot food and drinks were available all day for those attending, which was intended to encourage participation by reducing potential barriers. Around 80 residents were engaged with in total and gave their opinions over the course of the 2 days. Videos were produced featuring commitments to activities by residents, which were publicly screened at a later date.
Like the outreach events, the door-to-door conversations were largely consultative, so little deliberation occurred between citizens and no formal decisions were made.
The questions that were asked in both the event and door-to-door approaches included:
- What is your wish for your community?
- What is good about it?
- What needs to be improved?
- How would you improve it?
- Who needs to be involved? You?
- What’s already been done?
- Where would you start?
- How will you know it’s been done?
- Point to a place? Where is the problem worse?
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The main outcome of the investigation was that workers used an approach in which more one-to-one conversations are carried out with community members personally, avoiding emphasis on high profile outreach events. The overarching conclusions are:
- The process of building community and linking people together are vital for successful delivery of Thriving Places outcomes.
- Conversations are fundamental in building community and can be supplemented by other types of outreach events as part of Thriving Places.
- Thriving Places workers should avoid sole reliance on one-off, high-profile outreach events when working with communities.
- Conversations and on-going dialogue are more in line with the ethos of Thriving Places.
These outcomes led the report to the following recommendations:
- Spending time cultivating relationships of trust with and within the community is vital to the success of Thriving Places.
- Effort should be focused on connecting people to people and so building community.
- Community building is achieved through conversations and on-going dialogue. It can be supplemented by outreach events as part of Thriving Places.
- If you are planning outreach events, ensure they are well-planned and involve the community in their development and delivery.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The outreach events allowed a large number of residents to be engaged in a relatively short period of time but required strict coordination and large investments of funding and time to run successfully. The door-to-door conversations can be carried out without as much in-depth planning, and with considerably less infrastructure required. However, they are labour intensive for the individual carrying it out and create in-depth data which can be difficult to analyse.
The outreach events provided the community with a focal point and a visible representation of the commitment from Thriving Place partner organisations which was a great way of raising the profile of the approach within the wider community. However, this meant community expectation was unduly raised, since positive action seemed the next logical step.
The door-to-door conversations benefitted from a more in-depth, less structured method of data-gathering. Door-to-door conversations are a low-key starting point for development of reciprocal, long-lasting connections with community members allowing the next-steps to be explored in depth and create a feeling of collaborative momentum. Although a formal question was included at the charrettes to see what people could offer, time pressures and the more formal setup - with desks, high numbers of workers, councillors, etc. present - created an environment which didn’t cultivate the promotion of individual skills. Some individuals do not readily speak about their own skills and abilities without feeling they can trust those they are talking to, which can take more time than is available at an outreach meeting.