Catchment Partnerships can increase their capacity and become more effective by focusing on how they interact with communities to motivate them to get involved – whether that be through raising awareness, providing volunteering opportunities or offering citizen science training.
WaterLIFE pioneered a range of communication resources and initiatives.
HOW TO ENGAGE THE PUBLIC IN THE WATER ENVIRONMENT
Individuals and local communities play a crucial role in improving the water environment, from volunteering and campaigning to monitoring water quality, and their involvement is essential. There are some golden rules catchment partnerships can follow to engage with the public, and encourage them to get more involved with the water environment:
- Understand your community
- Develop a varied offer
- Get the message right
- Keep it local
- Communication, communication, communication
Enhancing the ability of community groups to get involved with on the ground projects, as well as influencing decision-making, will mean that change is not only accelerated but will be longer lasting. We have produced some helpful ‘top tips’ to help catchment partnerships identify the opportunities to work with community groups to increase their capacity, influence and impact.
These tops tips were generated from a more detailed report examining the capacity of civil society to influence the water environment and identifying some key lessons.
In 2014, an online public campaign called Save Our Waters was launched by WaterLIFE and Blueprint for Water, a coalition of 16 environmental, water efficiency and fisheries organisations. The campaign aimed to encourage civil society to respond to the Environment Agency’s draft River Basin Management Plans: to let them have a say before the final plans were released. It achieved this by using a bespoke website and questionnaire, enabling people with no technical knowledge to easily respond, thereby making it accessible for all.
UNDERSTANDING THE VALUE OF YOUR RIVER
It is important for the local community to understand the value of their local river and the resources it provides. In September 2016, Westcountry Rivers Trust (WRT), through WaterLIFE, held a Community Drop-In Session & Workshop for the residents of Millbrook, a village in the Tamar catchment that had been impacted by flooding. This event allowed for a discussion to be held regarding the environmental challenges Millbrook is facing and how these challenges could be managed in the future.
Defra’s Local Action Project (LAP), led by Westcountry Rivers Trust, helped local communities discover their vision for where they live and helped them to form effective partnerships. It produced a toolkit that allows communities to:
- Present robust evidence in a clear way
- Talk to the local community to discover their vision and ambition
- Develop a clear understanding of the social, cultural, environmental and economic benefits provided by the river
- Support the formation of effective partnerships by increasing engagement
BRANDING YOUR RIVER
There are over 100 catchment partnerships across England – and all are very different. Some are large with an established brand and others are newer, yet to create an identity for the partnership. WaterLIFE has shown how creating an identify for the partnership and river can help inspire local communities and others to get involved.
In summer 2015, Westcountry Rivers Trust, through WaterLIFE, hit the road on a summer tour to explore the current feeling about what communities (schools, businesses and individuals) living in the Tamar catchment thought about their water environment. People living and working in the Tamar catchment were invited to share their photos and stories about what the river meant to them and to create their own artwork inspired by the river and local environment.
The tour culminated in the My Tamar Festival.
It is important for catchment partnerships to shout about what they have achieved and share successes; along with tools, resources and lessons that other partnerships can use. Communicating success is also important to secure funding streams, as it is essentially a record of what a partnership has and can deliver. These two resources will help you understand more about communicating success: