Community engagement can be frustrating, and I’ve had a bad week! A couple of days ago somebody stole some solar-powered lights from the Kids’ Vegies on the Verge. One of our neighbours had donated four lights (one for each corner) so that the garden was more easily seen at night. They added colour, light and warning. On Thursday night, somebody decided to steal them. I wonder what has happened to people in the past that makes them think this sort of thing is OK? Now we have the dilemma of deciding whether or not we replace them. If we do get some more, will they just be stolen again? If we don’t, is there a risk that someone might trip over the garden?
This week I was also involved in a focus group exploring the use of Blackboard (an online teaching tool) in on-campus courses. We are interested in what students find helpful or unhelpful in Blackboard to help make it as useful as possible. The professor who was running the course had asked convenors of degrees to send the information out to students. I also went around to a few lectures to invite people to participate. We had hoped to have around 20 students participate over three focus groups. We ended up with five students in one – four of whom were current or very recent students on placement at the Family Action Centre. When I went around to the lectures, very few students were even interested in taking the information about the focus groups. Students sometimes complain about the quality of at least some Blackboard sites, but didn’t take up the opportunity to help improve it.
This lack of participation reminded me of the consultation I went to recently, about Newcastle Council’s community engagement policy and framework. The sessions were widely advertised, but my session had nine people and the following one had four people. It must have been very frustrating for the Council staff who organised it.
I know it is important to find creative ways of engaging the community, but I also think we (as community members) have a responsibility to participate in consultations, giving feedback and getting involved. I know that there are time constraints, other priorities etc, but it can be frustrating when you are trying to find out what would a community wants and there is little response.
End of whinge!
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