This consultation was undertaken to discover and analyse local regeneration needs of a small declining inner city community by inter-disciplinary researchers (e.g. psychologists and geographers) from Queen’s University Belfast, who assessed the community to be relatively passive and inactive. Some organisations wished to protect the area from perceived external threats and were considered to be influential. The team worked collaboratively with people who were widely respected in the area to co-design the consultation process.
The work was based around the community centre which most groups already used for their meetings or activities. This was a key tactic and paid good dividends.
The consultation time and budget were specifically designed to: reach a wide range of groups and explore their views in-depth; purposefully include under-represented groups which in this case included women, young people, the elderly and minority communities; inform, and where appropriate challenge, participants about key issues.
Community representatives helped the team to discover the range of organisations/groups within the area and to select people for each targeted focus group of 6-12 people. The local context suggested that incentives would be needed to encourage people to join in, so each participant received a £10 ‘big brand’ shopping voucher and the meetings included sandwiches and refreshments.
The team interviewed local politicians, business people, church leaders and community workers.
A report was published and the results were presented at a public meeting. A regeneration company limited by guarantee was formed after the consultation and although it has now been dissolved, the team continues to assist the community.
The consultation deliberately ran beyond the standard number of weeks to increase involvement in the interests of community development, including support by the consultancy team for the company limited by guarantee.
The consultation was part of an academic research programme which included additional objectives that were not related to development projects, although several projects were identified during the process. Had time and budget been specifically allocated to consult in respect of the projects, the overall cost is estimated at £20,000, which is approximately 0.5% of the capital costs of the development projects.