How to engage effectively with residents and communities?

A consistent area of interest amongst the Trailblazer areas and other people working on childhood obesity has been how to engage with residents and communities. This reflects the value of involving the families who are intended to be the beneficiaries of an intervention in its design.  

Discussions on how to achieve effective engagement with residents and communities have focused on two areas:

  • achieving reach and inclusivity in engagement
  • effective methods that empower communities and ensure inclusivity.

Access and reach – how can we best reach those we are trying to engage with?

On the basis of learning from the Trailblazers and discussion at the Assembly, it is possible to identify three ways in which teams can engage with families and communities they are trying to reach:

  • By working with existing organisations in the voluntary and community sector which already have good relationships in the areas and communities concerned
  • By working with teams within the council and other public service providers that are working with families, such as employment services and early years services;
  • By using places and spaces that are used by local communities, both physical and on-line.

Effective methods that empower and are inclusive

There is extensive learning from the Trailblazers and elsewhere about how to engage with communities and families in ways which both empowers the individuals involved and informs the design of interventions.

Top tips include:

  • Work with creative organisations, including those who work with young people, to reach different communities and families
  • Go to where people are: go to places and use digital platforms that stakeholders are more familiar with (for example local community spaces and using messaging platforms like Whatsapp)
  • Use platforms such as Zoom and MS Teams where appropriate and necessary, but remember that the telephone may be a better way of reaching some people
  • Put yourself in the shoes of the people you are trying to reach and think how they might want to get involved
  • Keep in touch with communities and families so they can see the impact their contributions have had;
  • Pay attention to the authenticity, clarity and transparency of all communications and contacts
  • Manage expectations about the process and likely next steps.