The Finer Points of Community Engagement

Sometimes talking about something as complex as the concept of communities can be a challenge. so in the words of philosopher Jean Varnier, this might go some way to explaining why we feel it is so important as a group representing the Connected Coast. He simply said: “One of the marvellous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals.”

Of course, addressing community issues is complex and cannot be effectively addressed without engaging stakeholders and community members. Engaging with a community is a long-term process and not a one-off event.  

I would like everyone to hold that thought as I outline just what lengths have been taken with respect to the Towns Fund during this unprecedented time that we are all paying witness to.

We host two coastal townships, Skegness and Mablethorpe, which under the Towns Fund is unique. They are two similar, but differing communities. Both quite rightly expect the same level of commitment and attention to detail as each other and that’s something we’re really trying to deliver. 

As acting as the community engagement facilitator, the Towns Fund team has been required to inform citizens and stakeholders about the Towns Fund deal and gather their input about the project. They have been required to understand citizens’ and stakeholders’ concerns, aspirations and ideas for how the Towns Fund will be spent, managed and measured. 

However, all this effort will be of little value unless the engagement effort identifies stakeholders and citizens that are willing to contribute. It has become clear through our outreach work with the Place Reference Groups for both towns and our private sector-led Connected Coast Board that by thorough planning our community engagement, it has increased our ability to:

  • Inform citizens and stakeholders about the Towns Fund.
  • Gather input from citizens and stakeholders regarding their opinions and support, as well as an assessment of various actions, goals and priorities.
  • Better understand and consider citizens’ and stakeholders’ concerns, aspirations and ideas.
  • Help identify stakeholder groups, leaders and citizens that can guide decision-making processes and are able to contribute to the implementation of viable solutions.

How are we doing ths?

  • The two Place Reference Groups and Connected Coast linked to a new and informative website offering, news, blogs and minutes www.connectedcoast.co.uk
  • The setting up, management and posting via media platforms including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 
  • Connected Coast videos interacting with local people from both Skegness and Mablethorpe townships.
  • Interactive webinars with Connected Board Members.
  • A digital symposium with more than 70 registered delegates from across the country, which generated more than 200 comments while the two-hour symposium was in progress.
  • The Skegness and Mablethorpe storyboards outlining the ambitions for both townships.

While not easy to gauge, getting as much varied engagement as we can out of both towns and their diverse residents and businesses is vitally important for the future. After all, as we pointed towards at the start, we are better tackling the issues and challenges together. 

Martin Kay, Strategic Funding Manager, East Lindsey District Council.