Organisations around the world that use sport as a tool to build leadership in adolescent girls have made it clear that part of the essential strategy for designing and implementing a girls’ sport programme is effectively engaging the local community. Not all of the challenges faced by organisations are the same, nor are the organisations’ strategies to engage their communities the same. Many have learned and continue to adapt and improve their strategies to engage their communities in this work, and because of this, have created better enabling environments for the girls in their programmes.
Community engagement is an aspect of every programme that must be revisited and evolve throughout the life of the programme. It is not about having one community event or publicising the launch of a new initiative. Community engagement is about building, sowing, and maintaining effective relationships with people through all of the critical aspects of human interaction – dialogue, patience, persistence, care, considerations, and clarity of purpose. It means taking time to listen to people and having the flexibility to deal with potential conflicts or problems, and being creative in finding ways to address those problems with the community, not in spite of them. Community engagement is the foundation of any organisational strategy and, as experienced by organisations, an accelerating factor for sustainable programmes.