Community engagement

New report on effective community engagement

On 25 February, a group of community engagement specialists came together in a virtual roundtable event to ask ‘How can we work together to shape our towns and cities for the better?’ Their thought-provoking discussion is presented in an exclusive new report.

Hosted by built environment hub Build Studios in partnership with community engagement app SitePodium, the event offered important insight into how developers can be more inclusive and collaborative in their approach and how local communities can be empowered to shape their environment in a positive way.

As a communications agency that specialises in the built environment and works with clients to develop successful relationships with local stakeholders, Meaningful was well-positioned to manage this event from start to finish, including:

  • Convening an expert speaker panel
  • Promoting the event online
  • Writing and designing a report
  • Designing social media graphics to support a digital marketing campaign
  • Producing a video

Key takeaways

We need to start moving to models by which there’s far more equity in the decision-making process.

Akil Scafe-Smith

Recognising that the built environment has traditionally been shaped by a small group of people and the development process can sometimes feel opaque, the panel noted a palpable sense of change in the air with growing awareness of the issues and inequalities in society, people are speaking up, calling for change and demanding to be involved in local decision-making like never before.

Digital tools offer lots of benefits: it’s a case of using those tools in a considered way to ask the right questions and get responses in a format that’s useful.

Jessica Cargill-Thompson

While traditional and in-person forms of stakeholder communication still hold value in helping developers reach the widest possible demographic, it’s clear that Covid-19 lockdowns have fast-tracked digital engagement across the board. The panel discussed how virtual engagement can still be made to feel personal and that creative responses to online consultations are often the most effective.

Construction firms now understand that proper community engagement is part of the process, not just something forced upon them by a regulatory framework.

Lucas Wijntjes

Panellists commented on how the built environment has evolved over time, noting that developers have a responsibility to inform communities about local projects – and that providing proper access to information helps build understanding and support.

Engagement should be a joyful process so that people want to participate.

Catherine Grieg

The discussion highlighted the importance of making stakeholder communication an interesting, relevant and hands-on experience for the local communities it aims to reach, while noting that “it’s a massive privilege to have time to participate.” One panellist described the value of collaborating with existing civic groups, particularly when engaging with young people “being local practitioners is how we connect to local people”.

If we’re looking to change the way we engage with communities, what should those improvements be?

Helen Santer

The discussion raised some important questions such as whether strong feelings on social media led to actual engagement and how long-term relationships could be built with communities. Barriers to engagement were also discussed, such as shifting political landscapes, being unable to meet in person due to Covid-19 and the availability of internet access by different groups. The conversation ended with each expert offering their view on which elements of community engagement most need to be improved.

A big thank you to Helen Santer for facilitating this vibrant discussion and our expert panel for their valuable perspectives: Lucas WijntjesJessica Cargill ThompsonCatherine Greig and Akil Scafe-Smith of RESOLVE Collective.

Read the full report here or watch a summary of the event below.


Restoring degraded landscapes one ecosystem at a time

A special edition of REVOLVE magazine dedicated to restoring degraded landscapes has been published in partnership with Meaningful client Ecosystem Restoration Camps (ERC).

Marking the beginning of the new UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), of which ERC is an official Supporting Partner, the edition was published on 21 March to coincide with the UN International Day of Forests.

Ecosystem restoration is the “process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged or destroyed”. It’s an issue very close to our heart, so we were pleased to manage a 3-month media partnership with REVOLVE on behalf of ERC on a pro-bono basis. Helping to tell the story of ecosystem restoration is our way of giving something back to the projects and communities doing meaningful work for society and the environment.

The campaign included:

A photo competition to choose REVOLVE’s Spring cover image

37 stunning images were collected from 19 ERC camps around the world and readers were invited to vote for their favourite online. The winning photo, an inspiring shot from ECR’s Mainsprings camp in Tanzania, became the cover image for REVOLVE’s Spring issue.

A 16-page photo essay

When it comes to bringing ecosystem restoration to life, an image can be worth a thousand words. This photo essay showcases inspiring ERC images from around the globe in a special 16-page magazine feature.

A double-page interview with ERC Camp Coordinator and co-founder Ashleigh Brown

Ashleigh spoke to REVOLVE about the origins of ERC and how what started as a grassroots initiative has grown into a global effort to restore degraded landscapes and educate as many people as possible about the value of ecosystem restoration. The interview was published online as well as in print. Read an excerpt here.

Ecosystem restoration could solve a multitude of problems such as desertification, food insecurity and climate change. It can even help quell the flames of conflict in places where desertification has caused desperation.

Ashleigh Brown, camp coordinator and co-founder of Ecosystem Restoration Camps

Ecosystem Restoration Camps is a global movement of people working together to repair broken ecosystems and, in doing so, provide humanity with hope of a better future. With 37 camps currently active worldwide, ERC aims to bring one million people together by 2030 to restore degraded ecosystems in 100 camps around the world.

REVOLVE is an award-winning quarterly magazine with an international readership, focused on sustainability issues such as water, energy, mobility, ecosystems and the circular economy.

Discover the Spring issue of REVOLVE magazine featuring Ecosystem Restoration Camps here.

Diversity & Inclusion

Tackling construction’s poor performance on gender

A group of senior executives from the construction industry have launched a new campaign to address the sector’s appalling track record on gender.

Despite being a key part of the UK economy, contributing 6% of GDP and employing over 2 million people, the construction industry seems to be stuck in the 1950s when it comes to gender diversity – only 15% of the workforce are women, only 15% of executive and 22% of all board members are women, and the gender pay gap in construction is 20%.

Meaningful is pleased to have been invited to launch The Rebuild Project, a campaign aiming to engage and energise government and procurers to improve ‘the 3Rs’ for women in construction:

  • Representation: increasing the % of women joining the industry at all levels
  • Recognition: improving the % of women holding board-level and senior positions
  • Remuneration: closing the gender pay gap by addressing pay differentials

The campaign believes that the £600bn ‘wall of money’ that the government has earmarked for UK construction and infrastructure investment and recovery represents an important opportunity to drive industry reform through the buying actions of the public sector, and argues that gender will remain a ‘box ticking’ exercise without the intervention of government and procurers.

One of the best ways Government can show its commitment to doing things better is by using public sector buying power to help improve diversity and inclusion. Equality is already a key tenet of the social value agenda, so we want to see the Government and public sector procurers really putting it into practice by helping contractors understand the value of diversity and guiding them towards best practice.

Anne Mcnamara, one of the co-founders of The Rebuild Project

The theme of International Women’s Day 2021 is ‘Choose to Challenge’ and we chose this day to launch a challenge to UK Construction Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan, urging her to use the Government’s buying power to help address inequality in the industry.

As part of the campaign, a petition was set up and we prepared letters to be sent directly to key industry stakeholders. The launch announcement was covered by leading industry magazines including Building, Property Week and New Civil Engineer.  

The campaign sets out some ambitious targets for the construction industry to aim for, calling for companies that generate 50% or more of their revenue from the public sector to ensure they have:

  • 50% women in executive positions by 2030
  • 30% women in executive roles on top 10 contractor boards by 2025
  • 50% women in entry level roles by 2025
  • Zero gender pay gap by 2035 – starting with equal pay for equal work!

The project believes these targets are not only achievable, but essential if construction is to be a modern, world-leading industry, rather than lagging behind. It’s clear that construction companies cannot stay saddled with outdated values if they want to attract and retain the best talent and win more business, but perhaps most importantly – it’s 2021, not the 1950s, and a change in the industry’s attitudes towards gender equality is long overdue.

To learn more about The Rebuild Project:

  • Watch the campaign video – below
  • Visit The Rebuild Project website
  • Show your support by signing the petition
  • Follow the campaign on Twitter and LinkedIn