Extract from 2016 Community Engagement Summit, Sydney, presentation by Kate Lewis, Northern Beaches Council.
The recently formed Northern Beaches Council amalgamated three unique communities each with a strong identity and sense of local pride. The amalgamation process involved significant community engagement process that offered a number of key learnings.
Firstly, the community must be engaged throughout the process of change. The internal processes of an organisational restructuring can be highly opaque to outside advisors, and it is easy for the community to lose interest in the process. Effort must be specifically taken to involve the community in the process of change, both to prevent disengagement with the organisation and to garner their input on how they want to be involved.
In the case of the Northern Beaches Council, this involved soliciting community input through the border review and preliminary amalgamation consultations. Several possible border configurations received community input, before the final decision to unify the full area of Manly, Warringah and Pittwater councils under the new council was made.
Secondly, existing engagement frameworks need to be realigned to account for changes in both available resources and community demographics. For the council, faced with the need to rapidly integrate and modify the various disparate projects the prior councils had been undertaking, this took the form of the establishment of a number of new consulting groups – local representation committees, strategic reference groups and the like – in order to rapidly gather community input on such a wide range of operations.
The key focus areas to take away from this example are:
Extract from 2016 Community Engagement Summit, Sydney, presentation by Jessica Brown, Canterbury Bankstown Council.
In order to engage properly with your organisation’s residents or customers (depending on whether approaching it from a government or corporate perspective), it is crucial to maintain the profiles of your target groups. To do this it is useful to make use of a ‘marketing persona’
This process differs for government and private groups. For government, the target demographic is a given, and effort should be focused into demographic groups to identify the defining traits of local residents. Corporate groups, on the other hand, have more flexibility in who they target and can instead construct an image of their ideal customer who they seek to target.
A marketing persona is a hypothetical figure representing common traits of the target market, presented in a graphic format. Multiple personae, featuring the common traits and demographics of your community, should be developed to allow you to effectively know and understand your community.
When it comes to effectively engaging your audience, keep the following in mind:
- Discover your audience, and invest resources into market research.
- Pitch the right content to the right audience.
- Create opportunities customers want to participate in, and on topics they want to talk about.
- Get creative on projects, and make sure they benefit you and the community.
Extract from 2016 Community Engagement Summit, Sydney, presentation by Christine Narramore, Central Coast Council.
Local Government is progressing through significant change with many council’s amalgamating and their communities growing by more than double. Many of these communities were aggressively against amalgamations and are now part of a larger community they don’t identify with.
The recently formed Central Coast Council worked to create and maintain a sense of community from the start of their merger. Their first step was to understand the existing communities and how they will be affected by the process and begin to engage with them immediately. Maintaining a community throughout change is easier than establishing an entirely new sense of community out of disparate parties.
Once change is underway, its critical to to create a central vision that outlines the ideal outcomes, the process to get there and the change the community should expect. By constantly engaging and communicating with the community it allows for a greater sense of security and regularity in the face of change. The community feels part of a group moving forwards and evolving rather than a process that is leaving existing parts of the community behind.
From this, it is possible to build up a real momentum for change. Keep people involved in the process and leverage greater effort from them. Don’t just keep change as something in the background, but make it something they want to be a part of. By keeping the community united and focused on the final goal, momentum can be maintained and the community becomes excited for the final outcomes.
The five key elements presented for effective change during this presentation are as follows:
❶ Build a Momentum for Change
❷ Leadership that Inspires
❸ Create a Compelling Vision
❹ Enable a Culture for Success
❺ Provide a Clear ‘Line Of Sight’
Extract from 2016 Community Engagement Summit, Sydney, presentation by William Adames, Ku-ring-gai Council.
Community consultation and engagement is commonly accepted as standard practice nowadays when undertaking works with the potential to affect members of a community. It’s vital to ensure this community engagement is not tokenistic and decisions are driven by the community.
But gathering and using information are two different things, and when it comes to decision time organisations can often default to their original plans. They are already prepared and understood by those implementing them, after all, and adjusting a project to meet community preferences takes time and resources.
This is the easy option, but doing so ignores the whole point of community engagement along with the opportunity to ensure projects are tailored to the needs of the community. When undertaking community consultation, it is important to ensure it serves as a means to test and refine the proposed course of action by getting the opinions of those directly affected by it, rather than merely a process to give a project social legitimacy.
Taking all this into consideration, we are left with two main questions to ask when planning community engagement:
- When planning engagement ask yourself – ‘What can I do to ensure our decision makers properly consider the outputs of this engagement process?”
- Also ask – “Is my organisation really committed to community engagement? What steps can be taken to improve this?”
Extract from 2016 Community Engagement Summit, Sydney, presentation by Callum Parker UX researcher and computer scientist at the University of Sydney.
Technology is increasingly becoming an ingrained part of everyday life. So much so it is becoming invisible – less obvious and more intimate – as time passes.
This increasing connectivity with technology is making it easier for people to socialise and connect with their community, and what’s happening around them. With people constantly socialising and engaging online, new avenues to communicate and engage have become available.
Adding to online engagement, technology can be used “on the ground” to excite and engage audiences. Technologies such as Augmented Reality are opening this landscape up even further and has the potential to revolutionise how we engage with communities. Augmented Reality can present material in a new, and highly understandable manner allowing communities to really see and understand information. It also provides opportunities for personalised and secure information to be tailored to individuals, creating intimate conversations on a mass level.
There are three take away points to keep in mind when bringing in technology such as Augmented Reality into the community engagement space:
- If used correctly technology can make urban spaces fun and interactive, attracting a new audience base
- Information in the real-space can be augmented to increase the value on an individual level with the integrity of privacy intact.
- It’s vital to make a sure a community engagement program is accessible to the community it is designed for