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Last edited 09 Feb 2021
In the general sense, ‘community engagement’ is the act of communicating with a community, irrespective of whether the entity doing the communicating is an individual, a company or a government agency.
Specifically, in the construction industry, community engagement tends to relate to developers informing or consulting local communities about the impacts that they or society in general will see when a project undertaken. This is particularly important for large infrastructure projects of long duration about which the communities affected may have considerable interest. In these instances, getting out into the local community and talking and listening to the people is one of the most important things companies can do to build and maintain their reputations and ensure the project progresses smoothly.
By its very nature, construction is a disruptive process with potentially significant impacts on communities – if not handled correctly. Throughout the construction period, the local community may have to endure periods of noise and vibration, dust, mud and local congestion.
This may be achieved by:
- Engagement – beginning, ideally, even before work starts on site. This may get the locals on board at an early stage, making the subsequent process a lot easier.
- Regularly communicating the progress of the project through newsletters, open meetings, site tours, notices and so on.
- Set-up ‘hands-on’ workshops for local people to provide better engagement.
- Set-up an exhibition that shows the project in full to help people see the ‘bigger’ picture.
- Providing opportunities for feedback though meetings etc.
- Provide an on-line presence in the form of a dedicated website to provide project information and regular updates.
- Spending in and supporting the local community.
- Employing people local to the project.
- Working with local schools and colleges e.g by giving talks, bringing students to site, providing work experience opportunities, etc
- Showing courtesy throughout.
The advent of corporate social responsibility has seen many contractors adopt a more enlightened approach to the communities in which they build. In the UK, this has been facilitated by the Considerate Constructors Scheme (CCS) which aims to improve the image of the construction industry by striving to promote and achieve best practice. To achieve this, the CCS Code comprises five parts as follows:
- Care about appearance – ensuring sites appear professional and well managed;
- Respect the community – constructors to give utmost consideration to their impact on neighbours and the public;
- Protect the environment – constructors should protect and enhance the environment;
- Secure everyone’s safety – attain the highest levels of safety performance, and
- Value their workforce – providing a supportive and caring working environment.
Contractors may also adopt the principles of LM3 (the Local Multiplier 3) which is a simple way of measuring how their spending benefits the community. An on-line tool can be used for this purpose. The principle of LM3 is that the more money that is spent, the more income is generated for local people; it is therefore more likely they will have a greater appreciation of the project.
In some situations, local communities may consulted about the nature of the development itself. In this case, carefully managed community engagement can be vital to ensure all voices are heard and the best solutions are identified.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Community engagement in conservation.
- Community liaison officer.
- Localism Act.
- National Planning Policy Framework.
- Neighbourhood planning.
- Non-statutory consultees.
- Planning objection.
- Statutory authorities.
- Stakeholder management.
- Stakeholder management: a quality perspective.
- Stakeholder map.
- Statement of community involvement.
- Statutory planning notice.
- Third party dependancies.
- User panels.
- Walking interviews.
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