By definition a community is a group of people living in the same place however we believe community is far more than that. Community is a series of relationships, a feeling of belonging and common interests. Building a strong community is not an easy task and ensuring that your community thrives is a goal set by many developers, associations and network groups however not many achieve it.
Simply placing a large number of people in the same place at the same time does not create community. How many times have you attended a large event and formed a lasting relationship with someone you have never met? If your aim is to create a thriving community you need to consider the following 4 important elements when planning your community engagement events.
1. Connect People
This is about providing the opportunities to connect with their neighbours and others in their community who have similar interests. There needs to be multiple opportunities set up for members of the community to meet – it is rare to strike a conversation and feel immediate connection the very first time you meet someone. When planning our client’s community connection events, we suggest a variety of activities with differing frequency (i.e. there may be a few large-scale events but we also plan regular smaller events to allow connections to form). Providing a number of opportunities to connect allows for greater community connection and builds stronger relationships. Larger style events allow people to understand the size of the community and feel part of it however they are unlikely to form strong bonds during one of these activities. In contrast the smaller events may not showcase the size of the community as a whole, however they do allow for more intimate exchanges and provide more opportunity to develop strong bonds.
2. Challenge people to learn
Learning new things is a pivotal part of life and doing so with other members of the community allows you to build stronger relationships through common interest. When surveying a new community, we take multiple elements into consideration including demographics of the area, current offerings from other suppliers and common interest groups of the community. This allows us to tailor a program that is specific to that area and will yield better results in the long run – community building activities are not a “one size fits all” approach.
3. Encourage people to get involved in their area
If every household in your community never left their home – how strong would your community be? Place Making is an important part of building a strong community connection, you need to develop areas within your community that people want to visit and enjoy together. This can be done through shared parklands, shopping areas, cafes and elements such as community gardens. We encourage our clients to include areas such as these in their planning as well as allowing budget to “activate” these areas. Your community garden will die if the community are not aware they need to work together to tend to it. Events such as monthly gardening classes work to educate the community on gardening techniques as well as providing the community members the opportunity to form relationships with other people of similar interests.
4. Ask for Input
You can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s broken. Following every event or interaction you should be seeking feedback from your attendees to determine what can be improved/changed for next time and what they found most valuable. During our client’s community events, our team monitor the “feel of the room” and mingle with the guests where possible to gain their opinions on the event. We also utilise Survey Monkey post event to send out a survey to the attendees – using the information gained from this to conduct a full debrief with the client. Some of our client’s communities also have their own community groups which is a fantastic source for feedback and it’s extremely beneficial to enable them to have input on elements of the event planning process, some may even wish to run some of the events themselves.
Events are a really good way to build strong & thriving communities as long as they are effectively planned and have well thought out objectives. It is important to ensure that the intricacies of your community have been taken into account when planning your events to ensure you achieve the best results. Events Outsourced can work with you when planning your community engagement activities and events to ensure that your community receives the best advice and opportunities to grow and thrive.