10 things to consider when planning local community engagement – part 2

Yesterday, we started looking at top tips for planning your community engagement activity. Taking the time to plan well will bring better results, and save time down the line. It will also help you create a ‘blueprint’ for future engagement activity.

As a reminder:

Top 10 key considerations for planning local community engagement:

  1. Set your objectives
  2. Understand your community
  3. Set your community challenge
  4. Set project parameters
  5. Create content
  6. Set up your engagement activity (dialogue, consultation, budget simulation, etc.)
  7. Create your moderation / facilitation strategy
  8. Plan your outreach and social media strategy
  9. Launch!
  10. Close, analyse and feedback

We covered the first five yesterday, so here are the rest:

6. Set up your engagement activity

Once you’ve got your project planned, you can then set up your engagement activity in your chosen manner. (May we recommend Citizen Space, Dialogue App and Budget Simulator?)

  • Set time aside to do the job properly; haste makes waste!
  • Test it out on your colleagues and trusted stakeholders to ensure that your challenge is clearly stated.
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread! Typos are a big turn-off.
  • Check any links you have included to websites, content or email addresses to be sure they work.
  • Think about accessibility – how will you reach those who do not have internet access, who speak another language, or who have hearing or vision impairments?
  • Double check your launch and close timings, and that you have given your team enough time to analyse results and report back on your findings.

7. Create your moderation / facilitation strategy

Moderation and facilitation are different, but equally important. Make sure you have a moderation policy in place, and a facilitation strategy mapped out.

  • If your engagement activity requires you to moderate participants’ comments (as you would when using Dialogue App), you must set a moderation policy. Determine your ‘rules of engagement’ and stick to them – anyone breaking the rules will have comments removed and may potentially be barred from further participation.
  • Facilitation is about who is ‘listening’ to the responses, and who will stimulate discussion if this is appropriate for your engagement method.
  • Be up front about moderation and facilitation so that people know what the rules are and who’s involved. Participants like to know what to expect and being clear about your rules will help deter inappropriate responses or posts.

8. Outreach / social media strategy

Maximising participation is key to a successful process. Make sure you reach out to key influencers by using social media and traditional marketing tactics.

Determine what key community groups that you want to involve in your consultation, and identify online communities and influencers you can use to reach them. Use all media channels to reach your targets:

  • Social media, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn
  • Your organisation’s blog
  • Email lists (with respect to the Data Protection Act)
  • Community websites, such as your organisation’s site, community group and local forum sites
  • Traditional media, like local newspapers, newsletters, flyers, notice boards
  • Offline events, like town hall meetings, or a stand at a local event or fete. This will enable those with limited internet access or know-how to participate via a paper version of your online activity

Don’t wait until your consultation is live before you start talking about it. Build up momentum by using the above media options in the weeks leading up to your launch date.

9. Launch your activity!

When you’re ready, go live! Make sure you have all of your marketing planned (and started), and that your team is ready to moderate, facilitate and analyse the results.

  • Using one of our tools, you can start seeing results immediately, in real time. Start watching for early responses and discuss these amongst your team.
  • If you are not getting the response rate you hoped for, kick up your marketing a gear. ‘If you build it, they will come’ does not apply to online consultation – you’ve got to bring people to your site by marketing appropriately.

10. Close, analyse and feedback

At the close of your public consultation, it’s important to analyse the results and feed back to the community about your findings.

  • Analyse the results of your activity as soon as possible and provide interim feedback if needed.
  • As results can be seen in real time, analysis can be done at any time during the live period, which can save time at the end.
  • Respondents will appreciate clear feedback, and being thanked. Providing a downloadable report and thanking all respondents for their input will encourage people to participate again in the future.
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