Policies and strategies

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Policies and strategies can help to integrate citizen engagement into the planning, delivery and running of all aspects of your project. When developed collaboratively and agreed by your group, they can provide a useful point of reference and consensus view, as well as giving you direction and focus.

While policies and strategies serve a different purpose (a strategy is a plan or approach for achieving an overall goal or objective; a policy is a defined course of action designed to achieve a desired result in a particular situation), they often have a similar format along the following lines:

  1. Introduction and background – who is your group and what is your project?
  2. Purpose – why are you writing the strategy/policy and what benefits will it bring?
  3. Goals and objectives – what do you hope to achieve through the strategy/policy?
  4. Actions (for a strategy) / procedures (for a policy) – how will you achieve the goals and objectives and who will be responsible for doing what when? For a strategy, this could be in the form of a timeline for the coming year. For procedures, you will need to set out a sequence of steps to be taken in a given situation in order to achieve the desired result.
  5. Assessing progress – how will you assess your progress towards achieving your goals? How and how often will the strategy/policy be reviewed to take into account progress made and changes in circumstances?

Possible topics for a policy or strategy include:

Community engagement. Developing a strategy to oversee all your community engagement activities can make sure you have all the ground covered and have actions planned for engaging different groups via a range of channels. For more tips, a useful resource is PlanLoCaL’s guide on ‘Community engagement: Developing a strategy’.

Marketing. A marketing plan or strategy can help you to plan your marketing activities over the coming period, ensuring you have a range of different channels covered for both your ongoing regular communications, as well as for specific marketing to promote your project during key upcoming stages, such as in relation to a share offer or planning application submission. For more tips, see PlanLoCaL’s guide on ‘Writing a marketing plan’.

Health and safety.  If there are any health and safety considerations associated with delivering your project, it makes sense to summarise these in a policy document for all those involved in the project to be made aware of precautions and other steps they need to take.

Procurement. If you will be regularly purchasing supplies to deliver your project, a procurement policy can be used to support specific external suppliers who are local or who reflect a particular ethos. Research or word of mouth can help you to find appropriate suppliers who fit in with the values and objectives of your project. A sustainable sourcing policy may be a good marketing tool, so this can be well worth the effort.

Funding. A funding strategy can help to support the delivery of a sustainable funding model, ensuring you make the most of opportunities to bring money into your project.

Recruitment and group management. Having a strategy for recruiting and utilising volunteers can help you to make the most of local support and resources. A recruitment policy can then provide guidance on the steps to be taken in order to appoint someone and to provide initial training and inductions. If your project involves employment of staff, you may need to include details on absence reporting, disciplinary and grievance procedures.

Case Studies
Country: UK

Bath and West Community Energy have an Election Policy which governs the election process for their directors. The document sets out election controls, candidate eligibility criteria, and the nomination and voting process. When the policy was developed, it was made available to all their members for scrutiny, and a copy is sent to all candidates upon successful nomination to ensure they are aware of the process involved. The policy may be changed from time to time by the Board or by the members approving a resolution at a General Meeting.

Country: UK

The Big Lemon has a clear procurement policy which defines what the parameters are for purchasing supplies to run its community bus service.  In order to do this, they collected accurate information on usage of supplies, lead times for different things and preferred supplier lists. Identifying their preferred suppliers involved researching different organisations in order to find those which had a similar ethos. Their sustainable sourcing forms a key part of their marketing to the community, and they inform customers about what ingredients are in the products they use.

Source: Community-Led Transport Initiatives action pack