Engaging Community

Read this in:

Although we often think of community in terms of village, town and geographic community, most organisations are also part of one or more sport-specific communities. It can be fruitful to partner with other sport organisations, including federations, ministries of sport, regional and national governing bodies to build their capacity to address gender-based violence. Perhaps your alliance can run a workshop for other member organisations about writing a Code of Conduct, creating safe spaces for girls or engaging boys in addressing GBV?

Including girls in the leadership of organising and executing a community strategy can have a profound impact on perceptions of girls’ abilities and strength – both their own perceptions and those of others. Whenever possible, give girls the opportunity to participate.

1. Form an Alliance: Partnership and collaboration is everything. It expands your audience, knowledge base, possibility and capacity. Effective collaboration does not happen by accident, it requires commitment and intention. Consider all the angles of partnership when building your alliance. Include other stakeholders in the community (women's rights groups, police departments, schools, religious institutions, media outlets, other sport programmes). Think about who the connectors and thought leaders are in a given community and strategise about how to engage these people in your work.

2. Identify the community: Be specific about who you are trying to engage. Discuss demographics such as age, gender, and socioeconomic groups. What are the geographic areas of focus? What relationship does this community have to your programme participants? What is their level of knowledge and comfort in addressing girls’ rights and gender-based violence?

3. Collectively Identify Past Successes and/or Barriers: It is possible that work has already been done on addressing GBV in your target community. If so, learn from history. What worked and what failed? Why? Engage the leadership of past efforts to understand, capitalize on work already done and avoid making the same mistakes.

4. Create A Strategic Plan: Identify your objectives and create a collective vision. Are you trying to change attitudes about GBV? Generate more support for your programme? Be organised and intentional about your work. What campaigns, events or projects will you execute? How often will you be engaging your target community? Identify a timeline. How will you measure the impact of your work? Don’t forget to include a budget and assign roles and responsibilities.

Note: Effective social change organisations understand the dynamics of their communities and seek to meet the community where they are. In other words, they pose challenges, provoke thought and craft calls to action based on the level of knowledge, interest and commitment of their audience. Never compromise your ethics, but consider how you can bridge gaps between community understanding and your alliance’s ultimate vision.

5. Start Popular Projects: Go out into the community and test your ideas! Execute an awareness raising campaign. Hold a sport tournament that includes GBV information. Organize a march, workshop or parade. Have girls do a community art project. Offer educational services or free HIV testing at your headquarters. Engage traditional media and social media outlets to spread the word. The bounds of your creativity are the limit. (See specific ideas below).

Note: Be aware that community activism and presence can provide survivors not associated with your programme an outlet to discuss their GBV stories. Be prepared to refer other women and girls to support services.

6. Evaluate: It helps to establish a method of measuring progress prior to starting any campaign or project, so you know if you have succeeded or not. Evaluation methods can range from sophisticated tools to informal indicators and be qualitative, quantitative or a mix. If you have the resources and alliance commitment, enlist the help of a third party for helping you devise and execute an impact plan. Most sport programmes use more informal methods, such as counting tickets sold at an event or visits to a web site. Ask the girls to participate during formal evaluations. The organisation needs to give them a platform to evaluate their programme and give feedback.

7. Maintain Momentum: If something works, keep the energy alive! For example, if you hold a girls’ cricket tournament to raise awareness in your community and there was a great turn out, work to keep the conversation afloat. Send the results and key findings to the media. Ask girls to thank sponsors and participants publicly. Schedule another tournament or a follow up event.