Argyll and Bute is an area defined by diversity of geography and of community. Engagement with and empowerment of our communities is essential to ensuring that Argyll and Bute Community Planning Partners design, develop and deliver the services that our communities need.
The partnership is currently consulting on a new Community Engagement Strategy that will help us all to learn more about community engagement and improve the way we work with different communities.
The Local Government in Scotland Act 2003 introduced community planning and made community engagement a statutory responsibility of all partner agencies. Importantly, it shifted the responsibility for participation, requiring agencies to engage with the community rather than asking the community to engage with them.
The Community Planning Partnership will work with communities to
- ensure that citizens and other key stakeholders in Argyll and Bute have a voice and are able to influence the development of policies and strategies that will affect their lives.
- inform the way in which services in Argyll and Bute are planned and delivered.
- inform the process through which change can be achieved.
- develop relationships and ensure that our communication is open and clear, free from jargon and accessible to all.
The Scottish Government Review of Community Planning, Statement of Ambition, published in March 2012, makes clear that communities have a key role to play in helping to shape and co-produce better outcomes and that unlocking that potential requires CPPs to have a strong understanding of communities and to provide genuine opportunities to consult, engage and involve them.
To achieve this, we want to work alongside and listen to our communities by enabling communities to get involved in making services better and providing ways for communities to get and exchange information. We want to base our actions on the principles of co-production thereby strengthening communities and enhancing community resilience.
What is community engagement?
Community engagement covers many different activities carried out with the people who make up communities. At its core it is about making sure that people can participate in lots of different ways to make Argyll and Bute a better place to live, work, study and play. The Partnership has adopted the following definition of community engagement:
Community engagement is the process of involving communities in the development and management of services such as health, education and housing. It may also involve other issues which concern us all, or it may be about tackling the problems of a neighbourhood, such as crime, drug misuse or lack of play facilities for children.
Community engagement takes many shapes and forms. It can involve simple exercises in consultation through the formation of multi-agency partnerships with community representation at the centre.
Underlying effective community engagement is the commitment of service providers and planners to listen to those for whom services are being planned’. (Communities’ Scotland, Community Engagement How to Guide)
There are many benefits that can be gained by both partner organisations and by citizens. The following can be achieved by listening to and working with communities:
- Plan and provide suitable and localised services that are tailored to the needs of the community
- Empower people to define the vision for their own community
- Provide information and opportunities for the public to be better informed
- Monitor & measure performance
- Encourage local people to become actively involved in the democratic process
- Build on ‘responsible citizenship’, cohesive communities with a shared sense of fairness and social responsibility.
- Improves relationship between partner agencies and the public
- Build capacity
Existing Mechanisms for Community Engagement
Within the Argyll and Bute Community Planning Partnership, there are many examples of engagement activity taking place and working towards Argyll and Bute Community Planning Partnership objectives. The CPP recently developed its Better Community Engagement Resource Pack and some of the community engagement and evaluation exercises are available online (http://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/community-life-and-leisure/community-devel...). In addition, a number of physical resources are available on loan to CPP partners to assist engagement activities.
These can be found online at http://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/motivating-your-community, or can be booked from the Council’s Community Development team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the list below may not be exhaustive, it does suggest that there is a range and diversity that gives citizens and other stakeholders an opportunity to feel that their views are gathered by various providers of services.
- Area Community Planning Groups
- Citizens’ Panel
- Focus Groups
- Third Sector Area Forum
- Multi-agency Partnership Groups including local people
- Community Care Forum
- Young Scot
- Community Health Partnership - Patient Involvement Activities
- Crime Prevention Panels
- Community Safety Partnerships
- Domestic Abuse Forum
- Feedback Forms
- Elected Members’ Surgeries
- NHS Public Partnership Forum
- Community Development Trusts
- Community Councils
- 3rd Sector Partnership
- Hard to Reach Groups
Inform, consult and involve
It is important that we inform, consult and involve all sectors of the community who may be affected by actions and decision taken by the CPP or any of its partners. Unless care is taken we may not sufficiently capture the views of important groups of people within our community. This includes hard to reach groups such as disabled people, migrant workers, gypsies and travellers, young people and older people. Through consultation we will ask these, and other, groups about how they would like us to engage with them. Also, the locations where we engage, the buildings used, the support provided and ways of communicating will recognise the constraints of living in a rural area and take into account the different needs of those we will be engaging with.
Community engagement is at the heart of community planning in Argyll and Bute and we as a partnership commit to ensuring that it is a driving force for delivering improved outcomes throughout the area. The Action Plan that is being developed as a result of consultation responses to the new Community Engagement Strategy will form the basis for the partnership to deliver on this commitment with all partners contributing outcomes from their own consultations and engagement to produce forward looking action plans.