NOWSPAR (National Organisation for Women, Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation) has created their community engagement strategy through neighbourhood mapping and identifying the level of exposure, direct or indirect, that each community group has on the girls who either belong to or pass through their sport programme. Their process consisted of asking the girls to map their community and identify where the positive and negative influences are. This method is a good way to understand the community and the problems that the girls face in participating in sport as a basis to begin your strategy. It is a method that comes from Participatory mapping tools that have been used in PRA development programmes since the late 1980s.1
 Chambers, R. 2012. “Sharing and Co-Generating Knowledges: Reflections on Experiences with PRA and CLTS”. IDS Bulletin. 43:3, pp. 71-87.
The planning process starts with an understanding of what you and your organisation define as your community and who makes up that community (meaning stakeholders, groups, etc.). Once you understand who your community is, and who the key stakeholders and community groups are, you can begin planning how to best engage each of those groups.
Step 1: Defining Goals and Objectives
The first important question to ask yourself in planning your community engagement activities is the same question that you ask yourself when you design the programme: what do you hope to achieve? By identify what you hope to achieve with the programme, you can begin to identify who will be important to your programme’s success and how. In upcoming steps, you may want to break down that list of stakeholders into who your biggest potential allies are and who may prove to be a barrier to your programme’s success. At the end of this process you will have a list of your programme objectives and a list of stakeholders and their potential influences on your objectives. All of these will relate to your overall programme goal. Without clear goals for your girls’ sport programme or a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve, determining how to approach your stakeholders might be more difficult.
For more information on strategic planning and creating clear goals, look through the resource below:
Step 2: Understanding the Community
The next step should be to understand who makes up your community. This can be done by simply making a list of all community members. Another way to do this is through community mapping. Community mapping is an activity that usually involves members of a community who visually represent (through drawings) what their community looks like. The focus of the community mapping exercise (identifying safe spaces, community resources, or types of community groups) determines what the maps look like when they are complete.
Step 3: Identifying Stakeholders and Community Groups
In the section of this guide entitled Community Groups and Stakeholders you will find a list of possible community groups and stakeholders in your communities and the barriers that you may face in engaging them, as well as best practices to engage them.
The next step in your planning process is to make a similar list, narrowing down your list from Step 2. This may take some time, as the best way to do it is to speak to the people in the community and the girls who will participate in your programme to understand who the influencers and stakeholders are. As you make the list, you should note what potential barriers you might encounter and use the strategies presented in this guide to try and overcome those barriers.
Step 4: Engaging Key Stakeholders
Once you have a list of the key stakeholders in your community, you can begin to design and implement approaches and engagement activities. Even if your programme is already in progress, you can always go back and engage more stakeholders. It is important that you are open to changing your programme based on your relationship to, engagement with, and input from stakeholders. If part of your strategy is to involve them in planning and implementation, then it is important that you respect their input and make changes where necessary, otherwise they will see that you have only involved them as a token gesture and it is not true involvement.
- Define Your Audience: Not all stakeholders can be approached the same way. Each group requires a different approach in order to get their support. Make sure that you clearly understand the different groups and their needs and desires.
- Brainstorm Actions: For each group, brainstorm ideas for how to approach or engage them, before, during, and after the programme.
- Create a Timeline: Plot your actions for each group on a timeline and prioritise the groups that are most important for the programme first. Remember that even if a current programme or intervention is not taking place at a particular time, that doesn’t mean you can’t engage community groups or stakeholders. Focus on continuous year-round engagement to maximise support.
- Delegate Roles: Assign roles and tasks within the organisation regarding actions. If each group of stakeholders feels like they have a point person or contact person within the organisation, they will be more likely to stay engaged.
Step 5: Measuring Impact
The final step is to measure the impact of your efforts in the community. You may not be able to measure all of the impacts that you have, but with specific tools, such as a parent questionnaires, you will be able to capture what the change has been with certain community stakeholders. For more information and promising practices, go to the Community Impact section.