Mobilising your community | Environment Victoria

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Mobilising your community

So you want to get others in your community to take action? Here are some tips to help you mobilise your community and motivate others to act.

Step one: Define the problem

Influencing others is easier once you know what you're trying to achieve. So here's some questions you might want to answer for yourself before you try to convince anyone else to help you. Pull out a sheet of paper and a pen, and write some quick answers to the following questions:

  • What problem are you wanting to fix or tackle?
  • How big is the problem? Is it local and confined to your own neighbourhood? Or is it a wider issue?
  • Who or what are the factors or causes contributing to the problem?
  • How do others feel about this issue? Are they also concerned or do they feel differently?
  • What would the world be like once this problem is solved?
  • What are some potential solutions to the problem?

If you can't think of the answers, it might be good to do a bit of research to fill in the gaps. Once this step is done, you'll be ready and armed to step out and step it up.

Step two: Time to talk

Now that you know what you want and how you might approach it, it's a good time to start talking with others. Throwing around your ideas with a few people will also help you sort out what's good and what's not so good. The more people you talk with, the wider the range of ideas and views you'll receive.

Don't be scared to speak with those who disagree with you. You'll learn just as much, if not more, from people with a different opinion . Remember, those who disagree with you might become important allies in the future. The key is to be honest, open and respectful. Engaging the community is just as much about listening and as about talking.

At the end of every conversation, don't forget to ask: "who else do you think I should talk to about this?"

Step three: What needs to be done?

If you're out there talking to people, you're already engaging your community and helping your cause. Connecting with others in the community is the first step in bulding the relationships you need to get action. You've planted the seeds and alerted others to the issue and possible solutions. You'll also have accumulated a fair bit of information by now, from many sides of the argument.

It's time to sketch out a plan. (And who knows, you might not have to do this alone).

The first thing to do is check out what others have done in similar situations. You may not have to reinvent the wheel, only make it the right size so it fits your problem. Use your discussions with people and your research to map out a plan of attack.

Make sure some key things are covered in your plan. Have you factored in people's needs, wants and values? How can it be made more fun for people to get involved? What is the key message you want people to take away with them? Are you practicing what you're preaching?

Check who around you is keen to be a part of the action. If you want to engage your community and noone is helping you at this stage, something is not quite right. It might mean it's time to go back out and talk some more. Or seek a mentor who can help you along the way. This feedback will  help you correctly target and gather community support.

The golden rule of community action is that it requires community ownership and planning.

Oh, and don't forget to have some fun! The best way to maintain momentum is to have fun along the way.

Step four: Implement your plan

By now, you've got all the information you need. You've spoken to most people who have a stake in the solution. You've worked with others to figure out a way to implement the solution. Remember, there are many ways to cut an apple - there is no right or wrong way. It will all depend on what works for you and your community.

Think about dividing up the jobs that need to be done. If everything revolves around one person, your plan of action will quickly fall apart.

Keep your expectations realistic. Everyone has many goals and responsibilities. If your focus is solely on your project, it is easy to forget that others may have other commitments they need to honour. Start slowly and invite people to join in. Consider using messaging that is inviting rather than frightening. People respond better to hope and solutions.

Provide a variety of ways for people to get involved. Offer jobs to do that fit in with people's interests and skills. Look for strengths and work with those.

Keep an eye on your plan to make sure you're on track. If you're not, get together and work out why. This is a learning opportunity and will provide feedback for you on what is working and what's not. Adapt the plan accordingly and don't fall into the trap of simply doing more of what's already not working.

Expect that everything will take longer than you think it will.

Step five: know when you've succeeded

Now, part of the plan will be monitoring your success and the odd thing that didn't go to plan. It's great to have little steps or goals along the way to tick off as they are achieved. The sense of satisfaction in those mini-triumphs will help you and the community see that progress is being made. And when the day comes that you get what you've been working for, have a celebration plan ready to go!

Step six: what next?

So you've succeeded in getting people to help you out, built a plan together and implemented. Better yet, it worked. Why leave it there? Now's the time to turn your attention to other issues in your community. Your group now has experience and skills that could be used to meet other challenges.

The group will ebb and flow depending on personal interest, but let it choose its own path. Others will join and help create change for the better. Remember, a wise person once said that the future is not what happens to us, but what we create.

What future do you want to create?

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