Community Engagement - Sensory Therapy Gardens Manual


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Community Engagement - Sensory Therapy Gardens Manual

  1. 1. CommunityengagementCreating and managing places that can about developing productive used and enjoyed by people who live Not only relationships between practitionersnearby helps to ensure that places are and local people, but between differentsustainable. Involving local people in community groups as well, that willdevelopment decisions helps to ensure continue beyond the life of the project.that the eventual designs are appropriate, For managers and staff, communityenjoyable, well used, and cared for by the consultation opens the door to people whocommunity. have personal experience of the difficulties It is vital to involve local communities in of using public spaces and to a wide varietythe earliest planning stage of regenerating, of perspectives and ideas.developing or constructing public open For any community, being involved inspace. the planning and user-testing processes of Community engagement is now a project is a chance to help create a localan important part of many funding space that appeals to them, their familiesapplications. However, engaging people and friends. It is also a chance to gain anin a project should be more than a ‘tick understanding of the constraints that sitebox’ activity to satisfy potential funders. managers face.Successful community engagement is 1
  2. 2. The benefits of involving Reduced maintenance andpeople vandalism costsThere are many benefits to involving a Once again, you can save money bydiverse range of people from the local involving people. When people feel theycommunity. The benefits easily outweigh have a say in how their environment isthe time and effort required. designed and managed they feel a sense of ownership. A sense of ownership oftenMore sustainable spaces that are leads to a sense of responsibility. You may find that the group you get together will goappropriate to the needs of the on to organise themselves into a “friendscommunity of” group or community representationIt’s sad but true that often no one finds group and take on some aspects of the careout what the community needs until a of the public is built and folks begin to complain.If a project finds out what a community Planning, Preparation andneeds its public space to achieve beforeconstruction begins then there is much Facilitationless likelihood of bills for “improvements”next year. And the year after that, and the Overviewyear after that… Say goodbye to the White The community engagement process breaksElephant. down into a number of different activities. Many of these activities can be undertakenBetter relationships with the from your desk and can fit around otherlocal community work. The following is a rough guide of the stages of community consultation.A better relationship makes life easier foreveryone. A healthy relationship involves 1. Find people – actively seek outmutual understanding and respect; it disengaged peoplemeans that issues are dealt with instead of 2. Cultivate your connectionsbeing left to fester; that ideas are brought 3. Prepare your activitiesto the table; that there is cooperation.Create workgroups of community leaders/ 4. Prepare your venueinterested people for ongoing projects 5. Run your events 6. Run supplementary informationEasy access to a reservoir of gatheringspecialist knowledge 7. Assess the results and integrate theseMany people experience the outdoor into your planningenvironment in many different ways.It’s impossible to guess how changes to 8. Distribute the findings and plans to yourthe environment may affect different partnerspeople. The best people to advise on how 9. Maintain the partnershipschanges may affect them are the peoplethemselves. Think of your community Finding peoplecontacts as valuable specialists and workwith them when making decisions. The most important part of the planning process is to involve a wide section of the community in the consultation. Groups associated with the space such as “friends” groups, local walking groups, sports clubs21
  3. 3. and so on, are normally easy to locate. everyone can use and enjoy.People with less or no association with Establishing mutual respect betweenthe space such as disabled people, young yourself and the local groups involvedpeople, older people, children, people who in the community engagement sessionsare on low income or unemployed, single will help to diffuse potentially negativeparents and black and ethnic minority attitudes that may arise from pastgroups can be more difficult to find. experiences. People involved or interested Allow ample time in the early stages to in a project need to feel that they willlocate these disengaged groups and begin be listened to and that their ideas andforming the foundations for a working comments will be respected. People shouldrelationship; chatting about the project, the also feel that they will be given open, up-significance and level of their role in it and to-date and honest information about the project, including any constraints which may affect them. Ensure that you have been provided with any relevant information from the site management or project manager, to be able to answer most questions at this stage, or that you can obtain the answers as quickly as possible. During the engagement session, it is often useful to have the site staff/manager present to be able to answer questions relating to site history, current maintenance plans or, commonly, hearsay about other developments in the area which may affect the project. Local community groups may consist of: l Volunteer groups l Schools (both mainstream and those for learning disabilities) l Businesses l Disability groupsCreative engagement techniques l Groups for older people l Learning difficultiesthe needs of the group to enable them to l Day centresparticipate fully in the consultation. If yourproject is within your area then locating l “Walking for Health” groupsand contacting these groups may only take l Ethnic minority groupshalf a day; for projects in areas less known l Youth groupsto you then this may take longer dependingon your network of contacts. Some groups l Pre-school and playgroupswill require extra effort to reach and extra l Sports clubs such as tennis clubs,provision in order to have an equal say bowling clubs, cyclists clubs and joggingin any decisions. The effort you put in at clubsthis stage will reward you with a richerunderstanding of the issues and a greater l Hobby groups: bird watching, ramblers,chance of creating inclusive spaces that historical societies, environmental/ 3
  4. 4. conservation clubs, scouts/guides. Preparation The whole experience of the engagementWhere to search for local groups process should be as pleasant as possiblel Local authority websites for everyone involved. If you stress that it’sThese usually have a section on local about ‘engaging’ rather than ‘consulting’,volunteer and community groups, their this may help to clarify the nature of themain contact and a brief description of session beforehand. Jargon words such astheir activities. Some local authorities have ‘consultation’ can be intimidating or off-a Community Liaison Officer who works putting for many people and can createwith local groups in the area and can be an negative feelings about the process thatexcellent resource for contacts. can hinder the session initially. Try to use plain language in all your communications.l Local branches of national organisations It helps to think of consultation planning as (for example, Age Concern, Mind, though you were planning a social event. Mencap, RNIB and RNID) “We would like to involve your groupThey may not be able to give out details in the consultancy process for the initialof members, but are willing to send out scoping stages of the project”information to their members. Becomesl Your network of work-related contactsThese may be able to supply contact detailsfor groups or organisations that they have • Decide how best tobeen involved with. arrange the consultationl Advertising groups: how many days,Use your website, local radio or local what activities will you offer,newspapers, including any free publications, what groups would work wellto advertise for local groups or individuals. together and so onl Local Directories • Make sure everyone hasYellow Pages, Thomson’s or any other local enough information about thedirectory will hold contact details for local project before they comedisability organisations, health centres, day/ • Create information andresidential centres, sports groups (including activities that are accessiblethose for disabled people) etc. and will yield meaningful feedback l Make contact with as many • Arrange catering and additional groups as you can. support such as BSL signers if l Make a reasonable effort required to present the project as • Send out schedules for the day something they would enjoy in good time; particularly to being involved in. people with learning disabilities l Arrange to visit those who or their representatives so they seem interested. It is better can prepare for the day and to work with people who are reduces anxieties about what enthusiastic about the project the day will hold for them enthusiasm is infectious4
  5. 5. “We would like to chat about how wemight work together” Create an atmosphere Develop a positive relationship with thegroup from the beginning and maintain For many people this maycontact through to the activity sessions by be the first time theykeeping people informed of developments. have been asked their opinion onIt is a good idea to form your relationship anything. Even the experiencewith one person in the group who can of being in a room full of peopleact as their main contact. This might be can be intimidating for some sothe club secretary, school head teacher or it is vital that the atmospheresimply the group member most interested feels welcoming. Food and drinkin the success of the project. Maintaining is a good way to settle peoplecontact with the group in the period in. Think of yourself not as aleading up to the session strengthens thefoundation of the relationship. It also helps facilitator but as a host: it’s yourto shape how the activity session should be responsibility that everyone has adelivered, by working with your contacts good time. Think of your ensure that the activities you plan to What sort of situation might theyuse will get the most out of the groups and be familiar with? For example,deliver the information required. older people might feel more at Use this time to work with your contacts ease if the atmosphere was liketo establish which activities or techniques a coffee morning with tea andwill be most appropriate for their members. cakes. Children might preferThe best technique or activity will be one party food and games. Peoplethat the group understands how to use, who are relaxed will more readilyfeels comfortable with and that will allow give their opinions.them to freely express their concerns andideas. Different activities and techniques shouldbe used depending on the group. For go out to them before the day so that theyexample, children and people with learning are prepared before the session. Begindisabilities and learning difficulties can be the day by going over the schedule, this isinvolved using creative activities and by particularly helpful to people with learningproviding images or objects that stimulate difficulties as information provided beforethem to respond (make sure that you the event may not have been clear.don’t influence their thinking by only using Create an atmosphere that allowsimages that you think will be useful or that people to feel able to comment withoutyou prefer, use a wide range of images). fear. Be careful not to allow personal orFacilitation organisational goals to steer the process. You have a right to an opinion, but beSet out the guidelines at the beginning aware that, as facilitator, your opinion willof the activity session to help steer the be seen as carrying more weight than thosegroup in a positive direction. Ensure that of others and that many people will beeveryone understands and agrees that sensitive to hidden agendas. There shouldthe process respects everyone’s ideas and be a balance between allowing people toconcerns and that everyone will be given feel that they can voice their concerns andthe opportunity to contribute. ideas without fear of retribution alongside Schedules for groups, if required, should 5
  6. 6. giving them clear information that not all Off-site sessionsideas can be used within the improvements If carrying out part of the session indoorsbut that they need to work alongside the chosen venue must be accessible tocurrent financial, environmental and wheelchair users and within easy access tomanagement plans. public transport, with appropriate lighting for people with a visual impairment and, if possible, a loop system for those with a hearing impairment. Think about: a) Whether the lighting is sufficient for people to see each other clearly b) The clarity of any maps or reading material that you may use with the group: will it be accessible for all those involved? c) The use of whiteboard, flip chart or PowerPoint presentation: will everyone be able to receive and understand the information?On-site sessions Additional InputWhere possible, host the session within There are other methods that can be usedthe public space itself. This is particularly to obtain information on concerns and ideasvaluable for people who have never visited for improvement from the community inthe site before and helps to put everyone general. Additional information can supportat ease more quickly than commencing the the results of the consultation sessions andsession indoors. can add weight to a funding application orOlder people, people with limited stamina management plan.and disabled people may require rest, Additional/supporting information can bea toilet break and refreshments before obtained using non-interactive methods:or while being taken around the site. l A section on the website that informsChildren and young people may want to people about the project and provideswalk around the site first, particularly if a place for people to contribute theirthey have travelled some distance. opinions and ideas.The weather can be influential on these l A leaflet drop in an area of thesessions. Rain is an inevitable part of the community you wish to focus feedbackBritish weather so don’t be put off or feel on. Provide various ways for people toyou need to hold the sessions indoors. As feed back, tear-off section of the leafletlong as it’s not pouring or freezing, some with postage paid, contact details and ainclement weather can help focus on ideas website address.such as shelter and different activities. This will provide you with informationMake sure that everyone involved in the from across the community but may notsession knows to dress for the weather and always be accessible to those within thecarry on! community from socially excluded groups such as older people, young people and children, disabled people and black and6 ethnic minority groups. These techniques
  7. 7. should be seen as additional to the and so on); they can assist throughoutinteractive consultation sessions and not as the development stage, ensuring thatan end in themselves. your design continues to be accessible and enhances the site as much as possible;Beyond the initial engagement they can also be contacted again for futureContinue the relationship after the projects and will be more than willing to beengagement session has taken place, involved if you have developed a mutuallyparticularly with those community rewarding relationship. Think of yourmembers who have expressed an community contacts as design partners.interest in receiving further informationor becoming more involved through Things to avoidvoluntary work. It’s important to carry l Avoid jargon when consulting withthrough any promises of further contact. community: inappropriate language canResources should be allocated for this create a barrier between site managersat the beginning of the project. Groups and the general public and can reinforcethat you maintain contact with are a any “them and us” feelings that therevaluable resource who can test anything might be within the group.that has been designed as an outcome l Avoid negative terms during feedbackof the consultation, (leaflets, signage, sessions, for example: “this route isinformation, interpretation and so on) or inaccessible to wheelchairs” – it may nothard landscaping (paths, steps, handrails be to one determined wheelchair user! The results of a place mapping engagement session 7
  8. 8. The Sensory Trust promotes and supports the creation and management of outdoorspaces that can be used and enjoyed by everyone, regardless of age or ability. Weoffer training and consultancy services to help you create and manage environmentsthat are accessible and enjoyable for a diverse range of people. l Site Reviews l Inclusive Play l Audience Development Plans l Community Involvement l Access Plans l Visitor Experience Assessments l Diversity Awareness Training l Accessible InformationFor more information on our services visit booklet is one of a series available to download free from the Sensory Trust website. It has been produced with funding from Lloyds TSB Foundation and the BigLottery.Visit This document has been set in 11.25ptor contact: APHont, a font developed by theSensory Trust, Watering Lane Nursery, American Printing House for the Blind.Pentewan, St.Austell, Cornwall, PL26 6BE +44 (0)1726 222900Fax: +44 (0)1726 222901 This document isEmail: available in alternative formats Copyright ©2009 Sensory Trust