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Want Your Community Development Project to Last? Involve the Community.

May 19, 2019

 

  

Imagine you get a new roommate. Other than the occasional hello and goodbye, they mostly keep to themselves. But slowly you start noticing they’re changing things. A new table in the dining room. A different painting in the hall. Your throw pillows somehow made their way into a closet in favor of theirs. Eventually, everything has changed, and while you can admit that the place looks better, you resent them for it and start looking for a new place to live.

 

Meanwhile, your new roommate is left confused -- they thought they were doing something good for the both of you.

 

This is the mistake that so many development firms make when they come into a neighborhood with big plans without effectively connecting with the community. If you want your new project to last and for native residents to actually use your space, it’s important to implement an effective communication strategy for the community you’re hoping to serve. Here’s a few ways you can make that happen.

 

1. Get buy-in from the very start

 

If you want to truly connect with your future patrons, first you have to get to know them. This can be done easily with a community survey. Reach out through direct mail, or through an online survey targeted via social media, to get their opinion on the type of business or operation you’re looking to integrate into their community. This way you’ll know if you have to do a lot of groundwork to get folks on board, or if they’ve been dreaming of having a service like yours in their town.

 

2. Keep up communications

 

If you’re looking to do community development work, just gathering input at the start of a project isn’t going to cut it. You’ll want to involve residents throughout the development process. Do this by hosting monthly events where you communicate what’s been done and what your next steps are. Sending out regular newsletter updates is another great idea, because you can use this list later on to invite residents to use your services. It’s also important to create a website that can serve as a hub for all information, news, and updates surrounding the project. Don’t make residents work to be informed.

 

3. Appoint community ambassadors

 

Word of mouth will always be the most trusted marketing tool. Find some well-known and well-liked community leaders and get them on board with the project first. Then have them work their magic: inviting their friends to your events, advocating for you on social media, and just generally helping to create a positive buzz about what’s incoming. Make sure to diversify this group of ambassadors so you’re reaching community members you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

 

The key with community development projects is to make residents feel like they have agency in creating the environment they want to live in. That means truly listening to them when they raise concerns and allowing space for new ideas. After all, they know their community better than anyone else.

 

In the end, you’ll have something that improves the lives of everyone, and no one will be left feeling like they have a new roommate who’s taking over.

 

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Domenica Ghanem

Content Manager, Three(i) Creative Communications

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