Tackling the cost of living with community engagement
By Charlotte Cooper | Tue, Nov 22, 2022
4 min read
The cost of living crisis is affecting a great many people up and down the country. In this blog, we’ll show how you can talk to your local community about the struggles that they’re facing; obtain their view on how the situation is being managed, and promote the tools and support you have available for your communities.
Finance. It’s all anyone can seem to talk about these days. From social media to television to the newspapers, updates about the cost of living crisis are splashed everywhere. It’s at times like this that many people turn to those they trust within their community and to their local authorities for support and guidance. What’s crucial for authorities now is to signal that it’s OK to ask for this help and to make sure that they understand the help needed - which might change throughout the year. Winter poses specific strains, but then so does the summer school holiday. This is where a digital-led hub can be of great benefit.
Find out more by chatting with our friendly engagement experts
While this crisis is something affecting everyone, every person, every family, and every business has a different experience and wants their voice heard. The financial squeeze is making many feel far less empowered as they are unable to afford certain comforts or have the power to make certain choices anymore - even essential ones. So it is more important than ever to provide people with a tool that can bring back some of that sense of empowerment. People should still be able to affect local decisions and have their voices can shape the help available at this time.
While we cannot claim to have all the answers, we are always here to help local authorities keep open the crucial dialogue with residents. In this article, we will share the tools that allow you to engage the local community, gather their thoughts, give them the opportunity to show how they believe budgets (such as NCIL, or parts of the wider council budget) should be spent and how you can signpost help and support that you may offer more clearly.
Other organisations will find Commonplace tools useful: if you are a local, regional or national charity helping alleviate
Understanding how your communities are coping and how you might be able to assist is vital. Let’s get started.
Gathering opinions and sharing cost of living resources.
As seen on social media, the streets and even on the very streets, people are not shy about sharing their views and worries about the current situation. The question is, how do you gather those opinions in a controlled open way so they can inform policies. . As you may have seen on this blog before, the goal of any engagement is to power positive participation, but that does not mean that the views you gather are necessarily happy ones. Rather, it’s showing how policies and actions have been shaped with the community’s input, which creates that positive impact.
This can be seen in Greenwich Council’s cost of living engagement. Created so that the council could gather the views of those in the Borough, the data gathered will contribute to shaping the Council’s response to issues such as food poverty and financial hardship.
The individual impacts of the cost of living crisis are varied, and many people would prefer to raise them in private. Greenwich Council is acknowledging this and using Commonplace’s new “in private” feature which means that comments will not be visible to other website visitors. This encourages people to be as honest as they can; the website also provides links to existing support as well as how to contact the relevant people. There is also a separate survey for businesses that operate in the Borough so they can provide specific information on how their trade has been affected and their business’s forecast the foreseeable future.
Thanks to the survey results, the council has been able to take action to support residents (as noted in their News Feed). These include:
- £150,000 towards the Council’s annual “Stay Warm, Stay Safe” initiative supporting vulnerable residents with energy costs
- £150,000 grant scheme for local community groups who support their residents
- £300,000 funding for the Emergency Support Scheme, to provide financial support during unexpected hardship.
There are few questions harder than those about money, especially these days: how spending should be prioritised, where it’s coming from - all very valid questions and concerns. With every penny counting, many people want to know exactly where their council tax/rent is going and would also like a say as it’s their lives being affected by these decisions.
This is where a digital budget allocation tool can come in handy - like ours.
It’s an interactive and gamified approach to get feedback from the community on what is most important to them. With the sliders, it’s simple and visual to show how they would spend the budget. It also can also give a new perspective when it comes to how budgets are managed and the difficulty in choosing where resources should be allocated.
Find out all about it here
Understanding community resources
To sum up, let’s go over the crucial resources and aspects that should be covered in order to help as many people as possible with an online platform:
- Stay up to date with the community's issues: People need a clear way to submit issues and then feedback that these problems are taken seriously.
- Signposting to resources: All help, whether local, charity or governmental should be as easy to find and access as possible. This is where your promotion strategy comes into play as well, with tools such as email and social media able to spread your message further. This is also where a Heatmap can be useful as resources can be labelled on an interactive map. Things like mental health support; debt support; charity locations; community centres etc.
- Enable community organisations to make their help known: As mentioned in the above point, help should be easy to find to local organisations should be able to use your influence to share their help.
Check out Hounslow Homelessness support as an example! - https://hounslowhomelessnessprevention.commonplace.is/
If you'd like to find out more about our community engagement tools, please book in a free chat below!