Done well, community engagement grows your organisation’s reputation and also builds social capital in a positive and enduring manner.
That said, many organisations’ commitment to community engagement is, at best, the minimum they should do. Sometimes there is a statutory requirement to ‘engage’, such as in the provisions of the Local Government Act and the Resource Management Act.
Not surprisingly organisations that engage in this manner always get what they’ve always got.
Asking for formal written submissions will capture the attention of the ‘usual suspects’. Many organisations know well who their submitters will be and also what they’re going to say. In such cases the submissions process is a meaningless formal nicety that allows a tick to be placed next to ‘consultation completed’ in case the auditors ask a question or there is public challenge to decisions made.
Public meetings too are generally a waste of time and effort. When nothing contentious is being talked about, few people are likely to drag themselves away from Shortland Street to sit in a cold hall to hear what some elected members or senior officers may have to say.
When something contentious is the subject of a town hall meeting, then the proceedings are usually captured by a few dominant personalities intent on competing for having the last word. Heavy rhetoric is bandied, newspapers report the conflict, with little that is positive achieved in terms of identifying issues or discussing options.
The community engagement toolbox is considerable and covers a range of techniques that are highly personal and proven to focus on achieving meaningful outcomes. Many of these tools can be put to work for less cost than a series of public meetings. Most can capture and distil ideas and opinions in a manner that can be put to good use by planners and policy analysts.
Engagementworks understands the theory and practice of effecting community engagement. We understand all of its components and how these can be put together in a manner that fits well with an organisation and its needs, particularly if there are statutory requirements to be met.
We have a range of consultancy services that can help our clients and we have some focused and practical training products that are available for individuals and teams working in the community engagement space. We can customise these to meet specific needs.
Please give us a call. We’re happy to chat on a no-commitment basis and identify ways you may be able to lift your organisation’s community engagement game and build a stronger reputation with your stakeholders and key communities.