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Guest blog – Annie Armstrong on how to involve people

September 14, 2015

Colin Neighbourhood Partnership in west Belfast have a simple way of involving local people in what they do – they go out into the streets and knock on doors to find out what the issues are. It’s just one of the ways that they involve people as Manager Annie Armstrong explains.

I’ve lived and worked in the Colin area for over 30 years and I have seen this community grow and develop over the years. Working with local people to create a better, stronger community is at the centre of what we do.

Annie Armstrong is in the middle of the front row wearing a green dress.

Colin Neighbourhood Partnership volunteer celebration. Annie Armstrong is in the middle of the front row wearing the green dress.

Sometimes that is just about knocking on doors and letting people know what is on offer and how they can get involved. For example, we go out and talk to people of all ages face to face on their own doorsteps about what is going on in the community and what we can offer them. It’s also an opportunity for people to let us know what the issues are and what we could all be doing to help.

We have strong links with local schools to reach parents and families who need support, and we talk to other groups and agencies to reach people.

We don’t assume we know what the issues are – we ask people what they are and how we can work together to tackle them. Many people including families and older men who are involved in our Men’s Shed project told us they were concerned about rising obesity levels. They suggested running healthy cookery classes, which we are now doing. They use food grown on our allotments to cook delicious, healthy meals.

We have a committed team of volunteers who are involved in all aspects of our work. One example is the Roots of Empathy project that we run in local schools. This is part of our Neighbourhood Empowerment project that is funded through the Big Lottery Fund’s Live and Learn programme. Roots of Empathy is a programme that works with primary five children to encourage them to be more empathetic with each other and people in the community. There is a lot of evidence from other countries where it is used that it reduces violence and bullying among children.

Part of it involves a local woman bringing her baby in so that the children can learn about the baby’s brain development and mental health and those kinds of issues. We talked to a couple of local mums who had been involved and asked them whether they would be interested in having training to deliver it themselves. A couple of them are doing that now. So we will have people in the community able to do this. It doesn’t cost a lot of money and it increases the skills in the community.

What do you do to involve people in your project? What are the challenges of doing this? Talk to us on Facebook, Twitter using #fundingpeopleni or email us at yourideas@biglotteryfund.org.uk to share your views.

You can find all the details about People and Communities on our website.

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