Formal community meetings allow you to engage a number of different community stakeholders, either through separate meetings or all together. In these community meetings you can inform the community about the activities of your programme, ask them for their input and help, and also learn more about the different members of the community.
- Understand community sentiments among stakeholders about your programme
- Identify key community allies
- Gain trust in community by inviting their opinions and input
Community meetings should be hosted on a regular basis, because the relationship that you have with stakeholders in the community may change over time. There may also be new stakeholders who enter the community and who you would like to engage with. It is important that after these community meetings, you follow up on suggestions made or questions posed by stakeholders so that they feel they really engaged with you and that their participation was valued.
Guidelines and Tips
- In your yearly planning, schedule at least one community meeting every 3-4 months.
- Choose whether you prefer to have a mix of stakeholders at your community meeting, or if you would rather have different meetings for different stakeholders. In conservative communities, it may be wise to have different meetings for men and women.
- Invite community members with whom you already have a relationship to facilitate or lead the meeting. Also invite any strong allies as guest speakers.
- Send written invitations to stakeholders; it gives prestige and importance to your meeting.
- Follow up on any concerns expressed during the meeting at the next meeting, making sure that you do not have the same concern come up again.
- Be sure that you do not exclude anyone from the meeting or that they do not feel excluded. For example, think about your location; is it accessible to everyone?
- Have everyone’s voice heard, if possible.
- Also limit the time of the community meeting, and, if there are participants who still want to speak, invite them to speak with you after the meeting.
- Provide seating and refreshments, if possible.
- If you have any handouts or important information about your programme, print it before the meeting so that you can distribute.