What is community engagement?
For me it’s about communication withÂ the people whoÂ bothÂ live and work where I live. Itâ€™s about conversation, Saying hello asking questions and listening – and that comes from the community and any partners working in the community, local government, police,Â LNP’sÂ etc. Â But, how do you encourage engagement? The people that want to will find ways to become part of what isÂ happeningÂ locally, they will attend the PACT (Police and Community Together) meetings, they will become members of the residents association – they will give themselves a voice. But what about the people who live in the community but quite often don’t have the confidence to communicate withÂ each other – let alone people in so called positions of authority – How do you encourage them to engage?
You encourage them to talk to each other – that’s how!
We set up the WV11 website 2 years ago this week and we’ve watched it grow from a site that we stuck articles on in hope someone would read, to a community who actively seek information from each other. Â If the lights go out in our area within a short while weÂ receiveÂ a post on ourÂ facebookÂ wall “Is anyoneÂ else’sÂ power out?” – When one of the water mains burst it was quickly established through conversation how far spread the outage was and how long it was likely to last as individuals shared information withÂ each other, no longer just looking to us for the answers.
But how do you move that conversation away from talking to each other – to talking to the partners that can make a difference in their area?
Recently there has been a spate of anti socialÂ activities taking place in the local park – fromÂ graffitiÂ and vandalism to bullying and loutishÂ behaviour. Â One of the targets for the localÂ vandalsÂ are a set of newly installedÂ exerciseÂ equipment which had been there barely aÂ monthÂ before it had been set on fire and destroyed and the locals are getting fed up! They came onto ourÂ facebookÂ page to express their displeasure at the situation so we asked them straight out – Do you think patrols of the park to combat anti social behaviour should be made a PACT priority at the next meeting? – They answered a resounding YES!Â As Â a result of us asking thisÂ simpleÂ question which basicallyÂ amountedÂ to “What do you want to happen in your area?” that is asked all the time by various bodies, but in a much moreÂ focussedÂ way, many residents who have never before attended a PACT meeting have expressed an interest in attending the next scheduled meeting on 16thÂ August to set this inÂ motion, and one resident who is unable to attend herself has found her voice and penned a letter she forwarded to us at Wv11 to pass over on her behalf.
Some of these people are the same ones who 18 months ago when we first started listing the PACT meetings on our website were telling us “there is no point going as we never get listened to anyway” – maybe it’s because finally they’ve found a cause which they really want to see a fix for that has made them engage – maybe it’s after 24 months of Â listening to each other online that they feel empowered to take action, or maybe it’s just because we asked a direct question and with over 60 responses they feel they have a united voice to get something done – who knows – all I know is I’m looking forward to the next PACT meeting and seeing what it brings.
Hopefully we can get the patrols a priority and prove that an engaged community does have a voice and that they can make things happen!
I was tucking the blonde kid into bed last night he suddenly looked at me all serious then lay staring at the ceiling…
me: What’s up baby?
tbk: Just thinking….
me: Oh what about?
tbk: I don’t know just lots of stuff
tbk: You know just lots of stuff like robot factories and unicorns.
me: (dubiously) ok…
tbk: ’cause you know if I think lots of robots and unicorns then it goes around over and over in my head then I fall to sleep and dream about that stuff and then wake up early in time for school so I can go and learn stuff and it makes me clever.
tbk: yeah because you have to dream to be clever!
Sweet dreams then kidda!
This week has been BUSY, everything is changing and it seems to be happening at 100mph, I definitely feel like this evening is the first real opportunity I’ve had to relax. Not that I’m complaining. Change is good especially when it’s changing for the better, But I’ve so many new and exciting things happening that it’s hard to keep up with myself let alone everyone else but sometimes it is nice to just sit and relax.
Tonight was my “sit down and relax” evening, we had take away for dinner and sat together to eat TV off, music on and we chatted about what we’ve all got going on and what we’d been up to today. The following is the blonde kids thought of the day…
TBK Mom do you believe in karma?
ME I think so why hun?
TBK Because I don’t.
ME Do you know what karma is?
TBK Yeah it’s when you do something nasty to someone and then something nasty happens to you.
ME Yeah it’s kinda like that, why do you ask anyway?
TBK Well today in school I tried to stop Lewis ball and I stopped it too hard and it bounced away and I got shouted at for being mean but it wasn’t really mean as it was accident and then someone threw it back and it bounced on my head and the teacher said “That’s karma that is, you kicked his ball away and now you’re hurt”. So is that karma?
ME Kind of I suppose yes. If you did kick the ball deliberately. (Giving him THAT look)
TBK Well maybe I do believe in karma then – just a little bit.
I’m not sure whether to be upset at his half admission of guilt to being mean to Lewis or whether to be impressed at yet another display of his understanding of the English language and his definition of “karma”
Whatever I decide I think this conversation will always be held as an example of “What goes around comes around”