If your community project is going to work, it’s essential to get people involved and setting up a group – or even a series of groups – can often be the best way to turn interest into active participation.
Groups often form quite naturally and informally during the early stages of discussions about the project. If you’ve held a green awareness session, poster campaign or the like in your local area to gauge the likely community response to launching your energy initiative, it’s likely that a number of individuals will appear who are keen to sign up to the idea. If so, you have already found the core members of your new group.
Structuring the Group
The nature of your community and the sort of project you’re planning inevitably play a major role in shaping such groups and there is no one single blueprint which will fit all circumstances. Groups come in all sizes – from very large ones with a chair-person, secretary, treasurer and so on, to much smaller and more informal collections of like-minded people and everything in between.
There are many ways to structure things, but often the best way is to see how things develop during the first few meetings, rather than trying to rush in and impose a particular approach. The shape of the group – and who does what – can often evolve in a sort of self-selecting way, where people naturally gravitate to the jobs and topics that suit them best, or interest them most. Of course it doesn’t always work out every time, but it’s worth at least letting things run for a little while to see what happens.
There can sometimes be an unfortunate tendency for a spot of “in-fighting” to develop when it comes to who does what within the group, but even the most friendly, egalitarian and informal of groups is going to have to have some sort of structure.
There will be times for instance, when someone will need to speak to the local authority or the local press on behalf of the group. If the project needs to gain external sponsorship, most funding bodies will need a named individual to contact – and someone will have to be in charge of the group’s accounts. Particularly when it comes to looking after the finances, seeking some professional advice at an early stage is likely to save a lot of heart-ache later on.
Don’t be afraid to draw on the human resources of your community; if your neighbourhood has a resident solicitor, bank manager or accountant, see if you can persuade them to be involved. The worst that can happen is that they’ll say no.
Community Initiatives Need Community Involvement
Community involvement is vital for the project to get off the ground – but it’s important to bear in mind that everyone taking part does so because they want to, so do remember to make it as easy as possible for the widest range of people to take part. If some sector of the community feels excluded or overlooked, you are going to have a much harder time getting them enthusiastic about helping – and community initiatives need all the support they can get!
The easier you make it for individuals to get involved, the more likely it is that they will and improving active participation like this is a very good way to increase the community’s feeling of project ownership. This is perhaps one of the most important benefits that a group can bring, since the more it feels like a shared community initiative, the greater the venture’s chances of success in the long run.
After all, there’s nothing quite like feeling that you’re part of a team working towards a common goal – and sharing in the project’s ultimate success.