Tackling the engagement gap: the importance of community engagement in shaping our places

The brief

As a specialist in community engagement, Grasshopper wanted to understand how effectively people were being engaged in new development proposals.

We invited MPs, MSs, ward members and councillors from across Wales to give their views on planning applications. We asked whether communities are genuinely having an opportunity to plan the future of the places where they live and work. 

Our findings

People in Wales are not being heard – nearly two-thirds of people surveyed say that community engagement does not influence plans.

Despite the pandemic accelerating the use of digital tools, an overwhelming majority of respondents believe that a mix of digital and face-to-face engagement remains the best way to engage.

Although there is a high level of engagement at pre-application stage, fewer people are engaged post submission, leading to a lack of confidence in the process.

There is an urgent need to close the engagement gap through more meaningful, ongoing communication. Consultation, involvement and collaboration with communities and stakeholders can be difficult to achieve, but it is crucial when trying to bring local change for the benefit of future generations.

To read the full report, click here.

Best practice

A guide to running bilingual virtual events

Like it or not, webinars and online meetings and events are now part of our everyday lives. But what happens if we need to engage in more than one language? 

At Grasshopper, we’re used to providing consultation materials in Welsh and English at face to face events, but the pandemic has opened the door to staging bilingual events using online simultaneous translation technology. A successful bilingual event takes time and effort to get right.

There are a few platforms out there which can provide an interpretation feature but our current go-to is Zoom. Here are some tips on set up:

  • Zoom requires 3 working days to set up the interpretation feature on your account, so the earlier you start planning, the better! 
  • Ensure that you set up your event correctly. There are step-by-step guides on the Zoom website, like this one: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/360034919791-Translating-your-meeting-or-webinar 
  • When setting up a webinar, be sure to click ‘Enable Practice Session’, ‘Automatically record webinar on the local computer’ and ‘Enabled language interpretation’.

Preparing participants

Your attendees will also need to make changes to enable them to listen to the translation. Here’s what we’d suggest you send participants beforehand:

  • Bilingual events are best viewed and listened to on a PC/computer (rather than smartphone/tablet).
  • Participants must have the Zoom app downloaded to their device (the browser will not work). Include a link to the download page and select ‘Zoom Client for Meetings’.
  • Step-by-step instructions on how to get the app up and running and offer some coaching pre-event if needed.

Keeping your interpreter happy

Simultaneous interpretation is a draining vocation and there’s a limit to how long an interpreter can work – a general rule of thumb is 20 to 30 minutes at a time.  Bear this in mind when working out the event’s running order and arranging speakers in a way which gives the interpreter a natural break.


We’d suggest conducting a series of dummy runs with your colleagues. On event day, make sure you have a practice session with your actual panellists and interpreter before the event goes live. 

Starting the webinar

Once you’ve hit the ‘Start Webinar’ button to let the public in, do an informal technical introduction to explain: 

  • The Zoom app is needed to access interpretation – suggest that anyone without it, leaves to download it and returns through it.
  • How to access the interpretation: move the mouse to see the globe icon at the bottom of the screen. Click the globe and select the interpretation language (on a Mac there is no icon, it has three dots at the top right-hand side for language selection). 
  • If your audio is bilingual, then presumably your vision will also be dual language. We favour the split-screen method with Welsh on the left and English on the right – select ‘Side-by-Side’ mode from the dropdown menu next to the green bar at the top of the screen.


If you need recordings of your webinar in both languages so that they can be put on a website, then there is only one method available. One team member records locally in one language while another member records the interpreter’s track. 

And finally …

  • Have your interpreter’s details close to hand 
  • Make someone else a co-host (and ensure that they have your presentation, script and running order) so they can also control the session in the event of a power cut / internet goes down
  • Practice, practice, practice

Take a full-on worst case scenario attitude to the whole thing and you will stand a better chance of staging a misshap-free event. Good luck!