Community engagement

Archives help to build stable and prosperous communities with a strong sense of identity, they encourage well-being, and they provide opportunities for people to learn, explore and interact.

The most appropriate type of engagement and involvement will depend on the service, the area and the issue. High quality engagement and involvement will help to ensure that:

  • people feel they can have a real influence on service planning and delivery
  • services are high quality, appropriate for the community and lead to positive outcomes for local people
  • local services and the community form ongoing relationships to work together to improve lives

In particular, archives have a key role in supporting local democracy and encouraging participation in civic and civil life.

Archives can help by:

  • keeping accessible records which support the democratic process
  • understanding that timely displays and information on relevant issues may inspire people to become more active in their communities
  • hosting and running events

Working with community groups

Your communities are a valuable resource. Good relationships with local people are vital for positive results and a sense of local ownership. Working with community groups is a key way to engage with and involve local people in the design and delivery of the service, and to widen participation.

Community groups can:

  • act as champions for your service
  • help you to involve a wide range of people, especially new audiences and users
  • keep you informed about what people in the community want and need from the service

What is important when working with community groups?

Establishing an ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship with community groups, based on trust and commitment to shared priorities, will help to improve the service and increase satisfaction.

To achieve this, you should:

  • ensure that there are clear parameters and that both sides define responsibilities
  • provide the opportunity for real influence and involvement so that people feel they are making a difference
  • communicate regularly and make information easily accessible. Be clear about how community groups are involved and what role they play
  • access their expertise and acknowledge and celebrate their input
  • work in partnership where it means better outcomes for your community and where it helps to achieve success under local priorities
  • think about what you can offer to community groups to support their work. Do you have space or other resources that they can use? Can you help them to organise events and publicise their work? Can you facilitate networking between different groups?

Providing information

Keep local people and other potential service users well informed about the opportunities on offer, how the services are funded, planned and delivered and how they can get involved or provide feedback.

Information for the public should be:

  • accessible: ensure that information is easy to understand, widely available in a variety of formats and that its availability is publicised. Offering opportunities for face-to-face conversations via public meetings demonstrates commitment and openness
  • transparent: be open about how public money is spent, how decisions are made, how the organisation functions and how it is performing
  • appropriate: be concise and let people know where they can find more detailed information if they want it
  • timely: if action is needed or invited, give people enough time to plan to get involved
  • current: invest time and resources to ensure that information is kept up-to-date

Carrying out a consultation

Public consultations are appropriate for engaging with and involving people, when carried out according to best practice standards, with excellent information provision and supported by other forms of involvement. The government’s Code of Practice on Consultation sets out the seven criteria for consultation.

Key resources to support community engagement and involvement

Policy context

Planning your engagement and involvement

Carrying out a consultation

Government Code of Practice on Consultation

Providing evidence for your contribution to community empowerment

Outcomes Framework

Equality impact assessments

Local Government Improvement and Development Resources on Equality Impact Assessments

Developing your audience case studies

Equality and diversity

Developing and embedding equality and diversity in archive services