How to bring people together and keep them engaged

It takes a village. So the saying goes. But how do you form a village in the first place? Do you start with the name, or by laying out the village square?

When it comes to your Grow Wild seed kit, you know where you’re transforming. The other side of the coin is who will help you transform it.

We want as many people as possible to benefit from the seed kits that we give out and learn about the wonders of UK native plants and fungi. This means that we rely on our wonderful seed kit leaders like you, who applied for the kits, to do the legwork of inviting people to get involved.

This post is designed for anyone who isn’t sure how to start, or would like some advice on keeping people engaged once the initial flurry of excitement has died down.

What’s the point?

Before anyone else will care about your project, you need to care about your project. And you need to know why it’s important. People are far more likely to get behind a cause if they understand and connect with it.

So ask yourself the question, “Why are we doing this?” and don’t stop until you have an answer that excites you, so you can go and get other people excited!

What are we doing?

Once you have a purpose, it’s time to get a plan. Pick a date. Pick several:

  • one for clearing your space ready for sowing,
  • one for the actual sowing,
  • one for weeding and maintenance a month or so down the line,
  • and finally one for a celebration event towards the end of summer when you hope some flowers might show, but mainly to thank everyone who got involved.

Start with that first date – it’s a really tangible thing to invite people to and gives you a hook for anyone that expresses an interest: “Great! Come to our first event next Saturday!”

Much harder to say no.

Who do I start with?

The trick to starting a movement is getting a second person involved: you need your first follower. This video from 2010 called ‘First Follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy’ illustrates this beautifully.

If you can convince one other person that they want to get involved in your seed kit transformation project, and that person goes on to invite others, your project will build.

Where your seed kit site is located will help with this. If you’re transforming a space at your workplace or at a community building, then talk to your colleagues – send out an email, put a poster on the wall. If the space on your street or in your neighbourhood, then why not go knocking on a few doors, perhaps put up a sign on a tree or at the bus stop.

Once you have your first followers, give them things they can send out: email templates, words for a Facebook post, their own posters… or something else they’ve thought of that you hadn’t considered (they’re great like that!)

As people join your project, you should offer them a role to take on. In the same way that a purpose for the project as the whole is a great way to get people involved, giving each individual a purpose keeps them engaged.

You may also know of groups in your area that would be interested in getting involved. For example, a Green Gym, or a youth group. Existing community groups often appreciate suggested activities for them to get involved in.

Food glorious food!

For thousands and thousands of years human kind has congregated around the preparation and consumption of food. We are a sociable people, and food is a fantastic way to encourage socialising.

The absolute best way to encourage a bunch of people to come together is to promise and provide them with food.

Never forget this.

Why are we here again?

Remember that purpose you established for the project? Well, you may need to dust this off from time to time, especially as the initial flurry of activity has worn off.

Growing plants is slow business. From seeds to seedlings to plants to flowers can take years, especially in the case of perennials. Once you have sown your seeds, they will require watering, and as your space is in a public area you may find it littered or even disturbed by passers-by.

Remind your team how important they are to the success of this project. Remind them of the different roles they could take on to make it a success.

This TED talk from Stanley McChrystal explores how to build a sense of shared purpose.

Have fun.

This project should be fun - for you and for the people you're getting involved!

One person I spoke to about this, David, told me a story about a workshop he was running:

"My most difficult group experience was one where I felt no connection with the attendees. I felt the workshop was going to be a disaster, the attendees felt this also and body language was telling me I was beat. Until I farted, quite by accident. The laugh that followed reminded us all that we were humans, stuck in a room for 90mins so we may as well have fun, and we did."

I'm not suggesting you let loose with your bodily functions, but do take the time to relax, enjoy the time you're spending outside with the people you've brought together.

Over to you!

Have I missed anything? How are you doing with your seed kit group? Comment below or join our Facebook group for seed kit leaders, where you'll find loads of other people helping transform the UK with wildflowers!

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