How government and charitable organisations can strengthen communities
Whether they are local, online or international, a community is better placed to achieve its goals if it has the support of governmental bodies or charities. Both types of institution have the resources to extend the reach and impact of a community and achieve public support.
Government support will often come from MPs or councillors from within the community itself. For local communities, these are the MPs representing them in parliament. In the case of special interest groups, it can be government representatives who have a vested interest in seeing them thrive.
Charities have a strong marketing presence and benefit from a large portion of the voluntary sector to promote awareness, either through funding drives or through activism. They can also provide a network between community members and extend their message or activity to a wider audience.
The value of both government and charities in strengthening communities should never be underestimated.
Excellent communication is important to community development. Without access to discourse or debate, members within a community can become alienated and passive. To achieve its goals, all members should have ample opportunity to participate and contribute.
The impact a community makes is measured by its reach and when its members are more active its chances of successful outreach are increased. Public bodies foster greater participation in communities by identifying members who are less engaged and what needs they may have. Research into public or community user engagement is one of the ways this can be achieved.
One challenge that faces both national and local governments in strengthening a community is its capacity to raise funds to support it. MPs or local councillors who champion causes and community initiatives must first convince both their constituency and other government bodies that it is worth spending public money. Inadequate community support, public stigma or even counter interest groups will do little to open up funds, so it is important that representatives are able to offer clarity on the issues and concerns they champion.
Public representatives draw on communications from those they represent in order to understand the concerns or ideas generated by a community. MPs or civic bodies can then utilise local and national press organisations, businesses and other community groups to highlight these concerns and ideas. They can then bring them to a wider audience and begin to build support.
Once a sufficient amount of support has been achieved, the case can then be made for funding and wider support. This can be fed back into the community in a variety of ways, including:
– Facilities and equipment
– Resources, staffing and use of the voluntary sector
When these efforts are shown to be successful, communities can seek further support from the government in the form of local or national legislation.
For the charity sector, a lack of public support can have much more immediate effects. As they rely on public goodwill, they will cease to be a viable charity if they are unable to elicit funds. In some cases, they may wish to enlist governmental support, but even this might not improve their ability to strengthen a community if they do not have adequate resources to start off with.
However, there are some specific advantages when a community is able to enlist the support of a charity. There are charities that retain support regardless of the political or social climate. These include charities which are faith-based, those with specific goals in mind like environmental groups, or those which are internationally based or well established. They have a level of consistency with their base of donors which means they can afford to be ambitious when it comes to spending or outreach.
– Lobbying for government support, either in grants or raising issues in local or national governmental debates.
– Funding research into particular issues or potential resources
– Researching or buying equipment or facilities.
– Creating and staffing outreach programmes to raise awareness
Impact and Future Engagement
Both government bodies and charities rely on public engagement in order to function. This is a huge advantage for communities looking for investment or resources. In the past, it has resulted in acts of parliament such as the Care Act of 2014 and the Sustainable Communities Act.
For both local and wider community challenges, public engagement has the capacity to increase as international bodies address digital access to government and charity communications. It will mean that communities can present their issues and needs to a wider field of organisations and link up with those who might have similar goals. More engagement ultimately means a stronger community.
For details of how Engaging Communities Solutions (ECS), an independent Community Interest Company, helps build stronger communities please see https://www.weareecs.co.uk/social-research-insight-1