Making sure people are informed is key to the success of Big Local. If they know what's going on, even if it’s a behind-the-scenes activity, they will be more likely to support Big Local, and more likely to want to get more involved.
And, conversely, the reason for most of the queries, concerns or complaints we get about Big Local is that people are in the dark about what's happening. When there's no information, they speculate about how Big Local funding is being used and whether it's appropriate, and often come to misinformed conclusions. So the best approach is to communicate openly and transparently about what you are doing.
There are many different ways to do this, both face-to-face and online. For example:
- a website or blog, for posting regular updates and good news (such as how local groups have benefitted from small grants from a community chest),
- a Facebook page, for sharing pictures and stories of Big Local activities,
- a Twitter feed, for promoting events or circulating a survey/questionnaire
- regular coffee mornings, with free or low-cost refreshments, where people can drop in and have a chat.
So, for example, St Matthews Estate Big Local area in Leicester has an interactive map which shows where and how the funding is being used to meet the priorities which were agreed by the community. My Clubmoor in Liverpool has a designed newspaper which is available in print or online. And Allenton Big Local partnered with a local publishing company to support students at a local school to be involved in communications and marketing of Big Local though a media group.
Events are a great way for the wider community to find out what you’re up to, and for people to give feedback while taking part - though you may need to work at getting a good turnout. When St James Street Big Local organised a ‘JumbleTrail’ (where people set up stalls outside their homes) they printed leaflets and posted them through doors. But they found that people didn’t notice the leaflets. Then they discovered that, if they knocked on their neighbours' doors to invite them to take part and handed them a leaflet, this really helped spread the word - and even got people signing up to host their own stall!
Canvey Island Big Local also got a poor response, when they held their open annual general meeting. They publicised it widely and put on a buffet, but the community stayed away. So they decided to try a different approach, and ran a free, fitness fun day instead. They got local groups to provide demonstrations and activities, and local services to offer free health checks. The event attracted over 250 people and provided a great opportunity to talk to people about Big Local and local priorities. You can read more about it here.