Innovation Exchange

Engaging Through the Third Sector with Communities who may be Marginalised


Key activities

Benefits and impacts


Renfrewshire Community Planning Partnership identified a need to engage with the most marginalised communities within our CPP. We recognised that value of engaging with these communities through existing links between individuals and third sector organisations.

Theme: Community Planning and Empowerment

We established the Forum for Empowering Communities, which was made up of third sector voluntary and community organisations, as one of six community planning boards within the Partnership structure.  The Forum provides a way to raise within the community planning partnership issues which are important to community and 3rd sector organisations.  A particular strength of the Forum is that it provides a way of engaging with a number of groups, who may otherwise be marginalised, through the third sector services they access.


An example of this was that Renfrewshire Access Panel, which advocates for disabled people, identified an issue through engagement with Renfrewshire’s Tackling Poverty Commission that was then taken on by the Forum.  This issue was a perception that disabled children approaching school leaving age found it more difficult to access work experience placements than non-disabled children. The Forum agreed to take up this issue and, with funding from Renfrewshire Council’s Tackling Poverty Fund, established a project to provide learning placements within third sector organisations.


The project was very successful, with good take up, and both children and teachers reporting positive experiences.  A key area of success was that 1-1 meetings were made possible for children and parents to identify work that would interest the children and to explore any factors regarding their disability that required to be taken into account.   Discussions then took place with the host organisation to brief them on the specific needs of the individual young person.  Any necessary training regarding disability and reasonable adjustments to the physical workspace was provided.  This meant that the organisations could take time to understand the issues and receive the necessary support and were able to be confident in welcoming the young person into the workplace.


As a result, Renfrewshire Access Panel now has a model resulting in good quality learning placements for children with learning disabilities and has worked successfully with a number of schools and third sector organisations in Renfrewshire.

What helped us to improve community participation?


Through the CPP structure, this third sector organisation had an outlet to raise a significant issue and have it addressed by working in partnership with statutory partners and third sector organisations.


The establishment of the work placement project has raised the profile of Renfrewshire Access Panel among the parents of the disabled children it has supported.  As a result, additional issues have been raised with the Access Panel, such as disability access requirements for events and exhibitions and requirements for changing places toilets.   By raising these issues through Renfrewshire Forum For Empowering Communities, Renfrewshire Access Panel has been able to find a route to raise awareness on disability issues among the relevant people within public sector organisations and have these needs addressed.    This has resulted in development of a programme to establish Changing Places toilets in Renfrewshire and direct engagement with architects regarding disability access for a new museum to be built in Paisley.


Organisations have networked and are continuing to tap into each other and providing support for one another.  As a result of the increased awareness among public sector partners of the expertise available within third sector organisations, these organisations are now being used to gather the views of specific groups of people facing particular circumstances that may otherwise find themselves marginalised.  This was specifically the case through the Tackling Poverty Commission, where third sector organisations were able to tap in to the experiences of poverty of their users to provide evidence, rather than use commissioned researchers to gather the information.


What were the barriers to improving community participation?


It can be difficult to identify individuals and groups with specific characteristics and initiate engagement.  In general population engagement, small groups sharing particular characteristics may find that their voice is “outnumbered” by the rest of the population.  This may mean that that the majority view expressed does not reflect the real needs of these groups.


In terms of an issue like tackling poverty, experience is very personal, so that there is a whole range of different causes and factors that need to be taken into consideration.  This makes engagement more atomised, as it’s then necessary to make contact with and engage a large number of individuals in order to build up a reasonable picture to inform policy.

Our learning has been that third sector organisations are trusted and valued by their users, which make them good partners for engaging with specific groups of people who might otherwise be marginalised.


Third sector organisations can identify individuals or groups of people who have specific life experiences and valuable insights that public service providers need to know about but may find difficult to access through their own engagement methods. Third sector organisations are very useful at being a trusted intermediary that facilitates engagement with very specific groups of people.


All parties benefit from this partnership approach; individuals get their voice heard, public services get specific information to support provision that would not otherwise know and become more responsive to specific needs and third sector organisations are valued for their key role as facilitator of engagement.

Case study added to site: December 2018

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