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Frequently Asked Questions

Community & Stakeholder Engagements

What is engagement?

Engagement is an interaction. An activity– a face-to-face or virtual event or an online interaction– during which information is exchanged between two or more people. Engagement generates relationships and affects trust. It’s the foundation for collaboration

What is digital engagement?

Digital engagement is an engagement using technology. An interaction that happens between two or more people online, virtually (online in real time), offline / in-person / face-to-face using digital tools. 

engage2 calls the technology used by governments for digital engagement, engagetech.

What is community engagement?

Community engagement is engagement among community or with community by an organization. Governments often engage community to understand and manage social issues, or to consult them about changes the propose to make to policy, programs and services. 

Some businesses, like property developers, construction teams and mining companies also engage communities to understand and reduce the impact and social benefits of their projects.

What is stakeholder engagement?

Stakeholder engagement is engagement with people and organisations who have or will be impacted by a project, issue or proposed change. 

Engagement can be designed to proactively reach stakeholders and invite their input or feedback on proposed changes. You might even choose to invite stakeholders to be part of advisory, reference or working groups.  

It is also common for stakeholders to get in touch with teams managing projects, issues or proposed changes if not engaged directly. 

Why is it important?

Engagement can help you to understand and manage impacts of change, and leverage opportunities to make a positive difference to a community or group of stakeholders. It is critical if you want to manage risk or build constructive relationships with stakeholders. 

Community consultation is widely considered to be a key part of the policy making process and representative democracy.

Are there different reasons for engagement?

Yes. You can engage people, organisations and communities to: 

  • understand their interests
  • invite input / ideas or feedback on your ideas
  • build relationships, and collaborate 
  • empower and enable them so that they make their own decisions and deliver change 
  • build communities, networks and ecosystems 

The International Association for Public Participation has developed this spectrum to help you define your purpose for engagement. 

engage2 have also developed The EngageTech Spectrum to help our clients understand the different types of technologies available to support these engagement purposes. 

How can you make engagement more effective?

Have a clear purpose for each engagement. This can be broken down into different objectives for different types of stakeholders or stages of your project. Make sure your internal stakeholders agree with these objectives. Communicate them clearly to your stakeholders and the people, organisations and communities when you engage with them. 

Make sure you’re using the right methods and tools to reach your stakeholders, to invite and manage participation and the information you collect through engagement. Think about the design and management of your engagements and relationships created through them so that they meet yours and your stakeholder’s engagement needs. For example, having a single (or couple of) points of contact with a stakeholder, can help to build rapport and trust in the process, improving their experience and relationship with your organization even if they aren’t happy that their interests will be met.

How can I encourage participation in my engagement?

  • Make it interesting. Develop a set of key messages and questions and break down information into bite size pieces so it is easy for people to understand then participate. 
  • Ask clear questions and be clear about how participation might benefit stakeholders and your community. Your questions communicate your reasons for engagement and the areas of the project / changes that may be influenced by their answers.  
  • Fish where the fish are. Where do your stakeholders meet and get information? Who do they trust? Can you work with these stakeholders? Develop content for these channels and stakeholders and ask them to share it. Drive traffic back to your website and engagement technologies that allow you to capture, analyse and report data collected. 
  • Make it fun. Consider how your participants will feel about engagement and how you can make the experience more enjoyable for them. 
  • Demonstrate that you’re listening. Acknowledge comments, respond to questions, share summaries of feedback and note themes / issues being raised so your stakeholders and the community know that someone is listening. 

What are the basic internal requirements for an effective community / stakeholder engagement?

  • Good people. Staff with experience engaging stakeholders and community. Enough of them to design, coordinate and manage engagement. Consider if you need an independent facilitator. If you do, ask them for design advice, and consider how they might be able to help you before and after an event not just during one – they’ll surprise you. 
  • Systems. Technology to capture, analyse and report data, and ideally relationships. Integrate the way you collect data across channels, market engagement and manage stakeholder relations. This will minimise the time it takes to manage your engagements, and ensure that you can track issues, demonstrate you’re listening and manage relationships more effectively.   
  • Internal agreement. About your engagement approach, objectives and how you will manage issues and relationships.
  • Procedures. Clear processes and well-defined roles and responsibilities for everyone involved in engagements, the management and use of data collected, issues and relationships.  

Why is community engagement important in planning?

Planners design the places for people to work, live, play and access public services and assets. Engagement helps them to understand what people, businesses and communities want and need. It’s also necessary if you want to people to have a sense of place, and participate in the design and development of their community.      

Planners can engage stakeholders and communities:  

  • In the development of design principles for master planning, strategic planning or places; 
  • In the detailed design of scenarios and places.
  • To test and get feedback on their designs or plans. 
  • To formally consult stakeholders and community about their plans. before they are sent to authorities for approval.    

How can I understand the needs of my community / stakeholders?

Ask them! Engage them. 

You can also observe your community and monitor behaviours. For example, you might watch how people use places to determine what the place needs. This approach is called ethnography

If you want people to accept change you might want to compliment ethnography with engagement. People like to be asked what they want and need, and you’ll need them to use what you design, create or provide if you want your project to be useful and successful. You might also be surprised by what they say. It’s easy to make assumptions. 

Before doing engagement it’s also good practice to create a stakeholder map and personas of the different types of stakeholders, then test these with a selection of key stakeholders before launching your communications and engagement campaign. 

What’s the difference between Digital Engagement and Online Engagement?

  • Digital engagement – is an engagement using technology. It can be done online, offline / in-person using digital tools, or virtually.
  • Online engagement – engaging with others online. Often done between events. 
  • Virtual engagement – using technology to engage virtually i.e. not in the same physical place. Often done live in ‘real time’ as events.

Check out our digital engagement glossary for more about how engagement technology can support online and offline engagements and the management of data and relationships generated. 

How to measure the effectiveness of public participation tools / methods?

Set some metrics for success. 

Did you achieve your reason for engagement? Did you reach the stakeholders you needed to? If you were engaging a community, were participants representative of the whole population?

Engaging Events

What does an Engaging Event look like?

It’s interactive and fun. Participants engage with each other and share their perspectives, knowledge and experiences.

When we design and facilitate events we think about the types of people coming, how they will engage with content and how we can encourage them to engage with each other. We design each part of the agenda with this in mind, balancing content and process.

How can I make my Virtual Event engaging?

Design it so that participants get involved. Provide creative ways for participants to digest information, share their knowledge, and reflect on content independently and together. Balance content and process. We’ve shared some more tips in this blog.

What is the EngageTech Forum?

The EngageTech Forum is a highly interactive event about technology for engagement. The event is designed so that public servants can find the right technologies for their engagements and share their experiences experimenting with different tools and transforming engagement in their organisations.

What are the best tools and technologies for engagement and collaboration?

The answer to this question depends on the reason for your engagement, your stakeholders and types of engagement methods you plan to use to engage them. 

Find the right technologies for your engagements at the EngageTech Forum or book a free one-hour advisory session with our Managing Director to discuss your project.  

What is the role of the facilitator in virtual events?

The role of the facilitator in a virtual event is much the same as their role in a face-to-face event. 

Facilitators design and manage processes that enable participation in events. They consider the objectives of the engagement and the needs of participants and create and ‘hold space’ for everyone ‘in the room’. 

They design an agenda and runsheet for an event that ‘creates space’ for participation. A good agenda balances content and process. A good facilitator will design exercises that help you to achieve your engagement objectives, encourage constructive participation so processes generate outcomes and outputs. 

They will also help you select the right tools for your engagements – tools like technologies for virtual events and collaboration during them, or materials to be used during exercises. 

During the event, they will lead participants through these processes and hold space to enable individuals and groups to contribute, reflect and participate in a variety of ways. 

Be sure to include a facilitator in your virtual event if you have more than 20 people participating and you want them to be able to ask questions, discuss ideas and work together in real time. 

What is the role of the facilitator in online engagement?

You might need an online facilitator if your engagement enables interaction between participants. Just like in a face-to-face event or social media, sometimes participants disagree with each other. An online facilitator will manage these dynamics, provide updates, and respond to questions to reduce the risk of misinformation or issues getting out of control. 

Good facilitators build rapport with participants, encourage constructive participation and support online collaboration. 

Online facilitation can happen in real-time / virtually or online between live events.