Community engagement can be a challenge. Putting on events and activities is the easy part, and sometimes we miss the most important part – is the event actually interesting to the people we’re targeting? Getting people involved in the development and delivery of an event/activity has proven to get real and meaningful involvement; citizens feel part of the process. If we get people involved in not only attending events, but involving them with the generation of ideas and giving us direction on what works for them, they are much more likely to come along and be invested in making it a success.
But where to we start? How do we get people involved, if we don’t have ways for them to get involved in the first place? Its a bit like the chicken and the egg – what comes first: the event or the people?
That’s the challenge for this group – how to we get real and meaningful engagement, and create opportunities for people to not only attend, but get involved in the development and delivery?
Consensus in the group was to start off with a few initial events, using the information collated from our market research Doorstep Questionnaire, and the Talking Wall. Taking into account our venue, and what resources are currently available, we determined priority groups, and came up with an action plan:
- Recruit more people for the Working Group, especially individuals who are involved in community capacity building
- Prioritise “easy win” events, things that can be planned, marketed and delivered quickly and easily, such as coffee mornings and common interest groups.
- Use these events to gain feedback to generate ideas for future events, and to recruit citizens to get involved in development and delivery.
- Investigate other community activities, to prevent duplication.
Some of the suggestions from the Talking Wall and Doorstep Questionnaire are likely to unfeasible, but we can work with local partners to see what other options are available. Whilst we can’t do everything, what’s important is that we make sure we communicate clearly what we can and can’t do, and the reasons why. We don’t want to disappoint anyone, but it would be worse not to acknowledge feedback from the community – otherwise, people would eventually get fed up, and not bother contributing any more. That’s where our YouSaidWeDid board comes in – it shows the feedback people have given, and we’ve made sure we’ve addressed each of their suggestions, and what we’ve done. If we can’t do something, we give clear reasons why, and suggest alternatives.
The Working Group will meet again soon, and hopefully, by the start of 2017, we’ll have an Events diary to get folks along!
So, armed with our interview feedback, draft actions from our stakeholder event and a list of willing volunteers, we re-grouped to consider the first of our themes – community feedback. There was lots of great ideas shared and a real recognition that many of us had lost sight of, or forgotten the ‘art of’…..just going out on to the street and having a good old chat with folk walking by.
We held a workshop to think and talk through some of that together, we covered:
- Why we want to talk to people on our doorstep
- Thinking through what we wanted to talk to people about, and how we could record that while still just “having a chat”.
- Getting to know the questionnaire/chat we want to have
- Practising the questionnaire and chat
- Things to consider when approaching people (identifying ourselves, our fears, safety concerns, time out, our worry that folk would think we just wanted to sell them something, etc…)
- What information we could share with people (including being able to say ‘I don’t know’, finding further information, handing out leaflets)
And then we had a short session of piloting the questionnaire on the doorstep. This was a great experience for all of us, we had a lot of lovely chats and received a wealth of information, advice and suggestions from the people who stopped to talk to us. Some even came in and interacted with our talking wall.
We’ve had several sessions of on the doorstep since, conducted by members of our group made up of volunteers, staff from our charity partners and the council. Each individual commented how valuable the experience was, having the chance to speak to different people and getting an enthusiasm for the Hub. However, most found it a draining experience, and reflected that to keep the enthusiasm and momentum, shorter sessions were better.
Link to: Doorstep Questionnaire
It was always our intention that our ‘on the doorstep’ work would be a set of ‘evolving questions’, which could gather information for a variety of outlets. Initially, we just wanted to find out if people knew about the hub, what they thought of the outside, whether they would use it, who they thought would use it, etc. This will give us direction for not just community engagement, but for our marketing too.
In the future, a whole set of other questions have been put forward for us to ask, including:-
- Do you know any groups that might want to use the space?
- Would you like to see any particular community events there?
- Would you like an opportunity to come and work with us to improve our communities?
- Would you like to leave us your contact details so you can find out what we’re doing in the future?
- Would you like our contact details, and information about our Facebook Page and Website?
In total over 3 one-hour sessions, we achieved 17 responses, which we will use to feedback to each of the working groups in due course. The responses where mainly positive, and have given all of the working groups a lot to think about!
We’ve been working hard over the summer to recruit and train a team of volunteers who can help deliver our Advice and Information Service. This week, we’re training 5 new volunteers, and welcoming back 2 from summer holidays, so we’ll be working to skill up our people to give accurate and reliable advice.
If you’d like to volunteer your time to the Hub, we want to hear from you! Fill in the contact form below and we’ll get back to you within 2 working days. Or, you can pop in, or pop along to your local Fife Voluntary Action Centre for more information!
Gathering statistics and making reports is a crucial part of what the Hub does. Not only do we need to report our successes, we need to reflect, adapt and improve after our failures.
Because the Hub is sometimes the first service people have accessed, we need to improve on the information we gather. Currently, the volunteer team gather data when they give more detailed and in-depth advice, which doesn’t reflect the casual, one-off or quick enquiries, nor monitors the footfall of the more popular services such as the Credit Union.
Therefore, we spent some time with the Coordinator, mapping out what we should be recording, finding the best methods to do so, and how we can develop monthly reports easily and efficiently. We had a variety of tools available to us – the Coordinator had already developed online questionnaires, which uses a simple interface to enter the data, and uploads it to a spreadsheet for analysis later. The volunteer team were already familiar with these questionnaires, so it was easy to develop one that monitors footfall, what information people asked for, and what information was provided.
Using tools like this means they are adaptable, meaning we can change, add or take out information we want, instantly. Evaluation is ever-changing – what’s relevant now, might not be relevant in a few months time, or to particular funders or stakeholders. Online tools like these also cut down on paper waste, time and resources.
So we trialled a new questionnaire on the 15th August 2016, with a view to establishing the system by the start of September.
We hope that this will assist the Coordinator to provide a fuller picture of the citizens who access the Hub, what their needs are, and the outcomes achieved.
We reviewed our progress on the 3 workstreams identified from the Stakeholders event in June – since June, we’ve met in working groups on each of the main topics: Community Engagement & Capacity Building, Partnerships, Collaboration, Shared Vision & Values, and Marketing & Layout. Once we’d established these three workshops, we then agreed that ideally they would be led by cross-sector leads. It is our hope that this will be a mix of community members, community activists, volunteers and staff from the council, third sector and private sector.
Each group now has leads in place, and have all met at least once to collaborate on agreed actions to head us towards our vision
Because all of us are doing something that sits outside of our differing areas of work and interests…..to do something quite different, we keep returning to our vision as a wee reminder to keep us on track….
For all our meetings we aim to ensure that everyone gets a chance to mix and mingle, to learn who each other are, put names to faces and have a wee tour of the hub to keep up-to-date with what’s going on. We learned early on that creating an informal and relaxed space, and not being rushed, helps people to get creative and innovative and for ideas to flow. We know that if we want different outcomes we need to work differently to achieve them. This includes feeling safe to suggest ‘crazy ideas’, take some risks knowing that ‘stuff’ might not work, but we’ll learn lots, and try something else in it’s place.
Our discussions include the many suggestions that people have put forward, and our actions are agreed on the basis of those who come to share their support, knowledge, skills and passion at each session.
Ever felt like you’re talking to a brick wall!? Well, we’ve got a wall that talks back!!
We’d like to hear all about what you’d like to see happen here at the Hub, and in the wider community. We also have sections on good free stuff in Dunfermline, Dunfermline fun facts and what you like about Dunfermline.
We also want to hear from you, if you think you’ve got something to contribute. Every person who comes to the Hub has a skill, craft or talent, and we’d like to hear if you’d like to contribute. You can give your time, skills, crafts, donations, anything!
Here are some examples of the things you can donate:
- Time – volunteer to help out at our events, or take a regular slot in our advice and information service.
- Donations – we’re always needing consumables, such as tea, coffee, biscuits, milk, sugar, as well as furniture and children’s clothes. Are you a good baker, or grow your own fruit or vegetables and would be happy to give away your extras?
- Skills – are you a good joiner, electrician, decorator, graphic designer, cleaner, crafter, knitter or seamstress ? We’d like to hear about skilled people that can help citizens and local charities in our community who need an extra helping hand?
- Information – have you heard about a service, and think everyone needs to know about it? Tell us and we’ll get the information out to anyone who needs it!
Pop in today, contribute to the Talking Wall, and be part of something big!
It became clear from a number of earlier conversations, that we could do a lot more to involve the community in developing the way the Hub works. This issue became apparent during the 1:1 interview stages, as well as during our stakeholder event. Although there had been some experience of customer surveys and feedback, it was clear that we could develop a deeper and richer sense of what people thought, and that we could feed this information into shaping the Hub.
Many of the people we talked to discussed the difficulties of people being ‘hard to reach’, and ‘hard to involve’. It struck us that as the Hub has a lot of ‘walk-in’ and ‘walk by’ traffic, we were well placed to develop some tools to help staff interact more with people working and coming into the hub.
We began by introducing a Talking Wall at the front of the Hub. It was important to get something up and running, rather than hone something to perfection before releasing it into the ‘wild’. Our early prototype was simply a wall sized piece of paper containing probing questions we hoped would prompt a variety of customer and staff responses. Pens and sticky pads of paper were provided. This was a decent start; it became a bit of a talking point, not to mention an informal method of gathering feedback from people as they passed through the Hub. And you couldn’t help but notice it as soon as you walked through the door.
It was important to us to ensure that this was not just a ‘tokenstic’ engagement tool, and that people would know that what they shared, would be read, and thought about, and where possible their thoughts could help to shape the future direction of the hub.
We therefore, developed a feedback board, that sits alongside the talking wall. On this, we group and highlight what people say under the ‘YOU SAID’ side. We then use that information to share with all members of the Hub (including the Dunfermline Poverty Action Group, partners, the council, other charities, and community members). Collaboratively, we come up with suggestions and solutions, and a plan to address the issue. The board reflects the actions and progress taken: what’s being done, who’s responsible and a timescale.
We recognise that it is often difficult to make changes, might be due to a lack of resources, conflicting suggestions, or not having control over certain areas of work. And so, where we can’t do something, we list the reasons for this, openly and transparently.
It is our hope that this also helps to motivate different types of conversations, highlight where things are difficult to change, and helps all of us to see where we might be able to contribute to helping to make things easier for the people we work with.
On Wednesday 29th June 2016 we held a stakeholder event for existing and potential Hub members. Not every service will use the Hub on the same day, so this was a rare opportunity to gather everyone together in the one venue and get to know each other a little bit better. It was also a perfect chance to focus our combined energies onto the Hub to consider how we can collectively develop the Hub.
To kick things off, we hit the pause button to reflect on the story so far. How the Hub came into existence, what is the wider context that drives the agenda for greater collaboration, how can we bring people who use the Hub right into the heart of service design and delivery. We considered the wide range of services and issues that the Hub currently addresses and could build on in the future such as:
We then shared some insights into what people thought of the Hub (completely anonymously, of course) by playing a number of pre-recorded quotes; snippets of personal testimony and moments of reflection. The volume in the room dropped as we let these moments of perception wash over us. This was our bridge into the first group exercise of the day in which we asked:
What exactly are we all trying to achieve through the Hub?
We split ourselves into five mixed groups to come up with a couple of sentences per table to best express this sentiment. Each vision statement was then hung up on the wall and every participant received three stickers to vote for their favourite option. The vision with the most votes was the one we opted to work with, which was:
This gave us a shared aim for us to bear in mind over the course of the day and a starting point for us to explore and refine over the course of the coming weeks. It also provided a great topic of conversation to consider over lunch whilst listening to the excellent vocals and guitar playing of Amy Louise Rogers, half-time entertainment par excellence!
Following lunch, we collectively explored the benefits the Hub can bring. This generated a great deal of discussion but was critical to developing a deeper understanding of the many reasons the Hub exists. The following merely gives a flavour of the breadth of conversation:
- Benefits to community members: peer to peer support; shared learning; feeling part of the community; central location; positive atmosphere; friendly face and a cuppa; holistic; one-stop-shop.
- Benefits to services: sharing resources, knowledge and best practice; central base; networking; signposting and better communication with other organisations; partnership working.
- Benefits to policy: direct link to people to involve in decision making; central point for information in & out; highlight issues as they develop; using expert (i.e. service users) knowledge and feedback; actions not words.
- Benefits to our perception: open and welcoming environment; familiar place within the community; multi-agency centre; public sharing of responsibility creates understanding and reduces stigma; anonymity for reason people are coming in.
This helped us get under the skin of the Why question – why do we need to do things differently? Why should we involve communities? Why should we focus on strengths? We shared a quote from the Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services by Dr Campbell Christie – often referred to as the Christie Commission – which was published five years to the day of our Stakeholders’ Event:
“Unless Scotland embraces a radical, new, collaborative culture throughout our public services, both budgets and provision will buckle under the strain. As a whole, the system can be ‘top down’ and unresponsive to the needs of individuals and communities. It lacks accountability and is often characterised by a short-termism that makes it difficult to prioritise preventative approaches.”
Over the past few years, there has been a shift in understanding how public services should be delivered; not about doing things to people, nor for people, but ultimately with people. To properly understand co-production, organisations need to let go and stop setting the agenda. Co-production isn’t simply about involving communities ad-hoc, bringing in people when it suits the public services that are taking the lead. Instead it brings about a fundamental shift in co-producing a shared agenda, establishing the direction, way before we get close to any implementation stage. Community members need to be at the centre of developing how services are designed and delivered if we are to ultimately change the way we work. Harnessing the skills, passion and knowledge that already exists in our communities will ensure we are all empowered to contribute to improvements in our lives.
For our final group exercise of the day, we wrote down the top two or three actions people felt would help take work forward to develop the Hub. We then grouped these actions into themes and asked people to sign up to an area of work they felt they could actively contribute to. These themes were refined over the subsequent days, but essentially we ended up with: (or these themes broadly broke down into the following five areas)
- Community engagement & capacity building
- Partnership working, collaboration, vision & values
- Marketing & layout
- Service delivery
- Hub programme development
with performance and measurement being at the core of all five. These groups now gave us a solid foundation to build on and collaboratively develop the next stage of the Hub’s story.
We’re shutting for the day for our Dunfermline Advice Hub Stakeholder’s Meeting, on Wednesday 29th June We’ll be back again on Thursday, from 10am!