Supercharging community engagement

While attending a consultation event recently, I found myself on the ‘other side’ for the first time. The experience was valuable as I was able to see community engagement from two perspectives; both as a community engagement specialist in my role at Grasshopper and as a local resident. Here’s some things we can do to ensure that our community engagement exercises are inclusive and considered for engaging dialogue.

1. Ensure that your project features a mix of in-person and digital methods of engagement.
Not everyone likes to provide feedback in person and not everyone is digitally connected. Make sure that your plans are always mindful of these factors and work solutions into your strategy which cater for both types of stakeholder.

2. Start engagement early in the planning process.

(Even if there’s not that much to say). If workers are seen in high-vis vests surveying an area, people are likely to be curious about them. Keeping communities informed can reduce unnecessary worry and stress for them and keep speculation at bay.

3. Appreciate and understand that people are experts on the places they live
and be ready to listen to their concerns. You will no doubt learn things that you were not aware of, and these bits of information could well contribute to a better outcome all round. You never know what insights residents have, so be open and pay attention, which leads to our next tip…

4. Build relationships within the community.
This really cannot be underestimated. Start early, and you are likely to make some important connections which will give you an insight into local sensitivities and opinions which can be factored into the project moving forward.

5. Hold in-person events in suitable venues.
Visit in advance to ensure they have all the features required – disabled access, toilets, plenty of space – having a pleasant, comfortable environment makes for a more successful, productive event all-round.

Read more on some of the projects we’ve supported including securing a new future for Marchwood Port.

By Bethan Harrington