SE-Village @ The Peckham Settlement

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Community Engagement Training put into Action the Very Next Day

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Kaizen Partnership came in this month to support our thinking around our approach to community engagement. Back in July we put together an engagement strategy for SE-Village, and our objectives were:

  • To encourage people in the community to visualise a more community orientated Peckham
    • Leading to 80 expressions of interest by February 2012
  • To enhance community connections by bringing people into new spaces
    • By attending events in places they otherwise might not have gone to
  • To inspire people who would otherwise not have got involved

We strongly believe that we have met these objectives, however, there have been some significant learnings along the way. So for example, we have over 80 people on or projects database, so people who at some point expressed a project idea, and there are over 50 ‘in-progress’ projects at the moment. However, we no longer tend to ask people for a formal expression of interest, as it proved quite daunting for many, even though we said they could submit the information in a non-written way too, eg a video or drawing, etc.

Both our hub events in the community and those at The Settlement have got people into new spaces. Many people weren’t aware of the Settlement until they found out about SE-Village.

However, to some extent we have struggled to engage with our target audience, especially the geographic primary ‘Square Mile’ target, because we haven’t done enough walking the streets style outreach and have been too ‘big event’-focussed. We have tended to control events in the community rather than supporting community hubs to run their own events. This has been due to our enthusiasm and desire to make the events happen, but we recognise that also creates a negative power dynamic whereby we are the event owners rather than the community shaping that. One plan to get beyond that dynamic is to actively involve more volunteer ‘community connectors’.

We have been fantastic at engaging traditionally less-heard voices in the project with the majority of Project Leaders of Afro-Caribbean or Black British origin. There is still more to do here, as the ethnic make-up of Peckham is includes 48% White British/other ethnic minorities.

One big challenge for the team with this strategy was the idea of targeting specific audiences. They very much felt that SE-Village is for everyone in the community, which is certainly true. However, it is also a marketing truism that if you try to target everybody you target nobody! Therefore in terms of our engagement strategy, we identified 3 specific types of people who we believed might fall through the net unless made an extra effort to speak to them directly. These were:

  • Time- rich men. For example men in the community without or between jobs who were keen to make an active contribution
  • Inspiring mums. These are mums caring for their children who are perhaps looking for a route back in to work or a way to connect with a wider community
  • Community elders. Long-term residents of local estates who have seen Peckham change over the years and care about the community.

One big success of this strategy is the mum’s event, which led to one of the participants joining as a volunteer broker with Hourbank and supporting SE-Village to run events. There will hopefully be a follow-up event involving a joint day trip with a similar group in Reading. There is also a men’s event coming up at the Tasty Bakery in Peckham, and we have found 3 motivational speakers from the local community who will contribute to the event!

In terms of the engagement message, this has come across so clearly and definitely the asset-based approach has been really empowering as the huge amount of interest in SE-Village and number of project ideas coming from the community has been almost overwhelming!

So we have been great at running events at the Settlement, including the launch event, a Christmas Bring & Share, a Pizza Party and Ideas Lab sessions, and we’ve used these to bring project leaders together, and also to engage new contacts. However we have struggled with some aspects of the engagement plan, such as building good media relationships. We did get some coverage in local press, but our key contact left for another role outside the media and we struggled internally to prioritise this. However, given the level of interest achieved through outreach, word of mouth and events, we’re not too concerned that there is a big gap in the project’s engagement with the community, going forward we need to focus even more on building community and engaging people to attend sessions, be volunteers, etc rather than looking for more project leaders, and that is definitely the focus for the remainder of the Neighbourhood Challenge period. Between now and the end of February we are focussing on helping maximise people’s skills through workshops, reinforcing connections through events and mentoring, consolidating progress with project self-evaluation, and a really big celebration and affirmation of everything that has been achieved.

Where the Kaizen training really helped, was to get us to think really clearly about our next steps and gave us not only a thinking model, but also practical tips which we put into practice straight away! With our SE-Skills Market just days away, and the launch of our SE-Village Spring Brochure, we planned a team day of door-knocking and engagement to generate some interesting conversations with people in Peckham. As some team members said:

My biggest learning was the need for straight talking when engaging someone and being really clear on boundaries and expectations from the start.

I have never been trained on community engagement before, so this was a good opportunity to review some of the things learned on the job and to challenge those.

We used what we learned yesterday in the training while on outreach today! I shared the skills I’d learned with one of the Project Leaders who came with us, and I’ve created some engagement top tips for stallholders at the SE-Skills Market too.

We also shared our training immediately with Family Mosaic, who also partnered with us on the outreach, getting us access into some of their properties around Peckham which we wouldn’t normally be able to get in to.

One of the biggest revelations of the session from a project point of view was the engagement model which had 5 separate types of engagement including strategic and generative as separate areas. This was really significant because I suddenly realised that all of our Project Leaders are essentially in the generative category. However, from the point of view of passing on ownership of SE-Village to the community and The Settlement’s exit strategy, we have been expecting those same ‘generative’ people to take up the strategic mantle. Whereas, actually generative people and strategic people can be quite different, with different skills and motivations. This has massive implications for the composition of the Village Council, and how that moves forward. So thank you Kaizen for that lightbulb moment!

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Written by sevillps

January 26, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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