Engaging Roma, Getting it Right

URBACT

By URBACT, on March 5th, 2014

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Being part of the large local authority, very often we are told that one of our weaknesses is communicating with the community. We do a lot of hard work, with dedicated officers going above and beyond to deliver for the most vulnerable in our community. However when we are met with blank looks of “I didn’t know that” or “someone could have told us…” from the local community, we often scratch our heads and say “we told them this…Why don’t they know…We put up a poster…” and so on.

Community Engagement Is An Organic Process

Community engagement and dialogue is a difficult skill to master. Some would say it isn’t a skill it’s an organic manifestationof days, weeks, months or even years of work with a particular group. It isn’t about providing them with information it is establishing a meaningful dialogue with purpose. Trust, communication and mutual respect are all critical elements and there must be relationships built for a common purpose.

So when the Roma Net project kicked off in 2010, Glasgow was confident that over the course of the project, we could establish a meaningful dialogue with the Roma community to ensure that the Local Action Plan we developed was fit for the Roma community. Did we do it?

Building Better Links Between The Roma Community and Glasgow City Council

Well,not exactly. But that should not be seen as a failure. We changed a lot within the Local Authority and its partners. We established a network of organisations that now collaborate and communicate and we have kept Roma inclusion at the top of the agenda for Glasgow. We harnessed the expertise of locally based organisations that do have that direct link, trust and respect with the community and tried to capitalise on their knowledge and relationships. As service providers and community organisations we created a plan together. A successful plan that we are now looking at evolving, sourcing funding for and most importantly using to influence the political agenda both locally and nationally. However, we have come to realise that now is the time to act in terms of engagement with the community directly. Who better to ask than the community themselves if the Local Action Plan we have developed is the right one?

A Small Step Is Still A Success

Glasgow is delighted to be part of Roma Net for this next delivery phase and want to use the opportunity to take our engagement with the Roma community to the next level. We are establishing a Roma Support Group – a parallel Local Support Group if you like, that will be supported by locally based organisations who have established links with the community and our project.

This group, whatever form it may take, will be the reference group for our LSG to keep us on the right path and ensure that we are working for Roma with Roma. Who knows where it may go? But even if it just a small step to build better links between the Roma Community and Glasgow City Council then the Roma Net II will be a success.

by Marie McLelland
Roma-Net II Project

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