Herne Hill Society – how to engage the community
The Herne Hill Society is an amenity group for the Herne Hill area. Now, it might just be me, but I had no idea what an amenity group did. Apparently they do a whole bunch of things including: organise talks on topics of local interest, write books about Herne Hill history, monitor planning applications, encourage improvements in local amenities, etc.
Their problem was that their membership was skewed towards older, white, middle-class residents – and so wasn’t representative of the local area. They wanted to broaden their membership base and encourage more active involvement from their members.
We suggested that the first thing they might think about doing if they wanted to broaden their membership base was get rid of the word “amenities”. You’re not going to find many people who, on a sunny day, suggest “exploring the local amenities”. It seemed an old-fashioned way to talk about what they did. Which was a shame because what they did – bringing people together to learn about and improve the local community – wasn’t old fashioned at all. It was something very relevant to people’s day-to-day lives in the area.
Currently the Herne Hill Society promotes itself and seeks out new members by distributing leaflets. They also send out a newsletter 4 times a year. Rather than just passively tell people what they did through leaflets and a newsletter we recommended they enter into conversations with people, so people became involved right from the beginning:
We suggested they:
Foster good relationships with local estate agents – who could then tell prospective Herne Hill residents about all the great things the Society was doing for the neighbourhood.
Donate some of the books they’d written to local cafes as coffee-table pieces – in exchange they might be able to leave membership leaflets in the cafes.
Get the community to talk to them about what they’d like to see happening in the area – this could be through postcards left in cafes.
Get local schools involved: get kids to write short pieces on local history and this publish it in the Herne Hill Society newsletter. Every parent wants their kid published!
Compile a list of case histories of interesting projects they’d done. Pitch some of the best case histories to local papers like Lambeth Life.