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!