Revitalising a Twinning
Twinning has continued to flourish throughout the last 50 years but in some areas, interest is declining, and the number of members taking part in twinning events falling.
Although there are more than 1,500 links between the UK and France and the UK and Germany, not all of these are still active. For those established more than a decade ago, particularly those set up in the years immediately after World War II, the people responsible for setting up the link may no longer be able to drive the link and create new interest. Encouraging young people to involve themselves in twinning is also a challenge.
The experiences of some local authorities suggest a number of ways of revitalising an old link.
Re-educating the masses
For some people, the concept of twinning is either unknown or completely misunderstood. To increase interest, it is necessary to explain exactly what the twinning link is about. Actively promoting its dynamic and wide ranging aspects will help. Organisers should use every opportunity available to stage exhibitions that may be seen by members of the community, community groups, schools, colleges, religious institutions and business groups. It is vital that it is clear that anyone can get involved.
Making it relevant
Activities need to be relevant. Most twinning links were formed on the basis of friendship and culture and, while these values should underpin all twinning links, times have moved on and twinning, like all other aspects of society, must reflect current trends and priorities.
Giving people what they want
Consulting within the community and inviting suggestions for activities can only help make a link more appealing to local people. Involving a wide range of members of the local population directly in designing and running projects can make a difference to how people feel about a link.
Giving young people a voice
To get young people involved, a link should include activities that interest them. Computer projects such as cyber caf's and website creation are popular. Sporting and musical events tend to attract young people, as do certain work experience and training related activities. Young people should have a say in what activities will be part of a link's programme of events and should be involved at every step.
Targeting new membersIf particular groups within a community are not represented in twinning activities, they can be targeted directly. Information about the link should be publicised as widely as possible, in leisure centres, libraries, community halls and local authority buildings.
Marketing and rebranding links
In an age when manufacturers are happy to jettison familiar product names for younger, slicker or more international names, twinning organisers needn't be afraid to do the same with a link. Although twinning is an accepted moniker for international links, some people may be confused by it or think of it negatively. Renaming or rebranding a link to make its aims and objectives easier to understand can help overcome this.
New partnerships overseas
It is worth considering setting up a link with a developing country or one of the EU's new Member States from Central and Eastern Europe. Alternatively, a three way partnership with an existing partner and another country may prove attractive, especially if the two overseas countries have traditionally been at odds with each other and the partnership can help improve their understanding of each other.
New partnerships at home
As part of the re-energising process, organisers can use the opportunity to look for new partners or sponsors within the local community, such as large businesses or academic institutions. This is an ideal opportunity to make new alliances at home.
This is the seventh of a series of articles about twinning published by the Local Government Association (LGA) on their website. The original can be found here Copyright in this article belongs to the Euoropean and International Division of the Local Government Association who have very kindly given us permission to use it, for which we thank them.