The process of working with communities to plan their own activities will highlight areas where support is required. This will ensure that activities are tailored to the needs of communities. This process is in itself an important part of building community capacity.
Sometimes, communities will come to you and will be very clear about what they need and want. But often you will need to initiate the process – getting in touch with communities, and working to assess strengths, needs and demand for capacity building activity.
This is particularly important to ensure that different communities have the opportunity to participate in community capacity building. Often the communities that need support the most can have the most difficulty engaging with existing structures and expressing what capacity building activity is required.
When thinking about planning community capacity building activity, the National Standards for Community Engagement are a useful tool. These set out best practice and standards expected when planning community engagement activity.
The main requirements are:
- all stakeholders should be involved from the start
- there is a clear purpose for community engagement
- participants should be able to agree timescales and roles and responsibilities
- resources for community engagement are clearly identified
- intended results are agreed and recorded
- constraints, challenges and opportunities are assessed
- plans are reviewed and adjusted following evaluation.
These are very relevant for community capacity building activity, and again demonstrate the cyclical nature of planning.
Example: Midlothian Youth Platform
In Midlothian, young people had set up a series of area forums. In 2008 they decided that it would be good to have a voice for young people across Midlothian. A local authority wide forum had previously been in place, but was inactive at the time. Representatives from each of the area forums came together to talk about how they could build a voice for young people, and what needed to change.
Example: Planning contact with communities in Highland
In Highland, the Community Planning Partnership's Equality and Diversity Group recognised the need to explore whether people from equalities groups wished to build their capacity to influence what happened in their communities.
The group held a planning event to get advice on how best to make contact with communities. Over 25 people attended this event, from community, voluntary and equalities groups, as well as community planning partners. At this half-day session, the group discussed all of the barriers and challenges to making contact with people from equalities groups, and explored how these could best be addressed. Ideas for how to engage with communities to explore capacity building requirements were debated. These ideas then informed a series of five participatory events with people from equalities groups across Highland.