Building partnerships with local stakeholders and organisations is key to effective community engagement. Start by identifying and speaking to groups who work within your target audiences. Focus on developing relationships with group leaders or influencers who can offer advice and help you meet and engage with local communities.
Who can help?
There are many different local partners and stakeholders who can help connect you with the communities you want to work with.
Contacts at your local council and Active Partnership can offer local data and insight. Other sources include:
CVS (Council for Voluntary Services)
CVS or voluntary development agencies operate in most areas and can provide information and contacts for non-profit and charitable organisations. Pay a visit to their networking events to meet a range of groups.
Faith-based organisations and local community centres
These groups are often active in their communities. Try to speak to senior leaders or officers who know of other groups in the area and can arrange introductions.
Speak to colleagues in your sector
This could include fellow local clubs or schools. Ask if they know people who could help.
Speak to your local County FA or Active Partnership who may have community links or could point you in the right direction.
Housing Association providers often work with groups and can identify specific community needs, as well as groups or individuals supporting and providing services for local residents.
GP surgeries and local authority public health teams
Healthcare providers are increasingly harnessing physical activity to improve community health. They may introduce you to Community Navigators who can point you in the direction of local groups or support networks.
The PCC (Police and Crime Commissioner’s) office
The PCC may have contacts in community groups from their work promoting community cohesion and reducing crime and anti-social behaviour in the area.
DPULOs (Disabled People User Led Organisations)
DPULOs can be found in larger communities and are often connected to local groups that provide services for disabled people in the area. Disability-specific charities also offer services in various communities and could connect you with groups in your area.
Searching for community groups
Speak to people who live and work within your community. They will have contacts through work or volunteering that can help you engage with your audience, for example café workers, teachers and charity shop workers. Speak to people you see and seek out community leaders who could connect you to relevant groups.
Try a mapping exercise, which means searching for groups who operate in your area and creating a list or ‘map’ of the places they operate.
People don’t tend to travel far to be active so focus your search in the community your facility will operate in. Think about how people will get to your venue before approaching them.
Visit local community centres, libraries and faith centres
Browse notice boards and search for groups that may be engaging with audiences you hope to reach. Speak to a centre manager or senior member of the organisation, explain your mission and ask for contacts of local community group leaders.
Internet searches are an obvious way of collecting potential leads. Narrow your search from ‘sports clubs in Manchester’ to ‘youth clubs in Moss Side’ or ‘community centres in Longsight’. It can take some trawling to find suitable groups and contacts, so take your time and be patient.
Social media is a great tool for finding local community groups which don’t have a website but have groups set up on social media.
Find directories of sports and community groups through the local council, Active Partnership and CVS. Be open-minded and search beyond obvious sports clubs, for example, youth clubs in the area may be looking for a local facility to offer activities for young people.