Across the globe, community engagement practitioner Carol Hayward is renowned for her ability to connect with communities and build relationships of trust.
Earlier this year, Carol was asked to join the working group for the Birkenhead Residents Association (BRA), and here at Delib we were delighted to provide Dialogue for their use in a planned consultation. While the consultation with Birkenhead residents is continuing, Carol has generously given her time to talk about the project and its continuing legacy.
Carol, what has been your role with the Birkenhead Residents Association?
I was asked to join the working group about a year ago because of my past links with the council and my community engagement experience.
Do you live in the community?
Yes – we have lived here for 8 years and the area is where my partner grew up. It’s a fabulous community to live in – close to the city centre, surrounded by bush and with a vibrant village feel.
How did you get involved with the association?
The Secretary of the Birkenhead Residents Association asked me if I would be interested in helping out and I thought it sounded really interesting. I think the main reason he invited me to get involved was through my past role at Auckland Council when I engaged with him and other village planning groups as part of a strategic planning process and then ongoing engagement to try to improve the democratic process. I’ve also been involved over the last few years within the local bush reserve on pest management and it was good to be able to bring my experience and connections to help with this work.
Why is there an engagement program happening at this time and what are you hoping to achieve?
The BRA had been thinking of developing this plan for a while but I guess there were a couple of key drivers for it to be progressed now. The first was that the mall owners have been talking about redevelopment. They are in the middle of redeveloping one of the other malls they own in another established community location and had some significant disagreements with the local community. The BRA were keen to pre-empt any discussion about the mall development and come up with a community-led plan first. The second driver is that Auckland is struggling with significant amounts of growth and the plan is a way of trying to ensure that any intensification that happens in the area happens sympathetically where possible.
Are you using a blend of online and more traditional engagement methods? Why? How have your stakeholders been responding to the engagement tools you have selected?
We launched the consultation with a community forum back in March. We then used that early feedback to inform the second phase of engagement which was a combination of online, face to face, door knocking etc. Dialogue was a great way of sharing ideas and getting people to have a conversation about them. In the online space, people tend to be more honest – when you’re in a face to face situation and there is someone with really strong views, it can be difficult to feel confident challenging them. Online it’s different. Dialogue is great as it allows people to come up with their own user name (so they can be easily identifiable or not) and then participate without fear that their neighbour is going to get upset with a comment they’ve made. I liked that I was able to share ideas from Dialogue on social media so I used that to promote the Dialogue and to get further feedback on comments. When we talked to people face to face, we also tried to add in their comments to the Dialogue – it’s good to have everything in one place that everyone can see.
How are you communicating with your stakeholders in terms of promoting project involvement and project findings/results? And how will you “close the loop” with them at the end of the project?
From the community ideas and discussions, a draft plan was developed. We were really lucky to have two local architects volunteer to be part of the working group and they turned the ideas into an amazing vision with concepts of how those ideas could be turned into actions. We then shared the draft plan with the community through a drop-in at the local primary school and online through our mailing list and social media. We have also started to get some wider publicity out through one of the local community magazines and are planning more over the next few months. We have been engaging with key stakeholders such as the local board and council staff, the town centre association and the mall owners on a regular basis throughout the project to keep them informed and involved. We have a few ideas about how we promote the final plan but it’s still a work in progress – however, I imagine we will use a mixture of direct email, physical promotion eg within the library, traditional and digital media.
What do you think the legacy of this project will be?
We want the community vision to be relevant for the next 30 years (with regular reviews and adaptations as required). We want it to guide and provide inspiration for property developers, the council, business owners and local residents for us all to work together to enhance the great things about Birkenhead while supporting the inevitable growth that enable us to live, work and play in the area.
You can view the community-led working document here:
Carol is the Community Engagement Manager at Waitemata District Health board in Auckland, involved as a volunteer within her local community and is also studying for a Master of Business Administration.
Prior to moving into the health sector 3 years ago, Carol worked in community engagement roles within local government for around 10 years in both Auckland and at Bristol City Council in the UK.
Carol also has experience in governance positions with strengths in leadership and coaching, and is a strategic thinker who has led the development of key strategies and policies. She is a relationship builder and networker who has a collaborative leadership style, providing mentoring and support to implement innovation and change.