15 Reasons Why You Need A Community Engagement Platform
- Caitlin Bennett
- December 13, 2022
- 6 minute read
Once you have decided that online engagement is right for your organization, you might have to make a business case for an online community engagement platform. New ways of working should always add value and a digital engagement toolkit can help you to transform your processes while addressing the challenges of traditional engagement.
Online community engagement involves shifting your engagement efforts online or taking a hybrid approach with your offline techniques. It is usually achieved via an online citizen engagement platform that hosts your engagement projects, participation tools, and reports.
After the complexity that COVID-19 added to face-to-face engagement, more people are asking if it’s important to invest in an online platform for community engagement.
Governments, councils, NGOs, and universities are discovering that they can transform their community engagement practice with a digital platform, activate their communities more deeply, and grow public participation.
Not only are online community engagement platforms beneficial for your community, but they can boost your internal team’s productivity too.
Here is a handful of the value-adds that you can include in your business case for an online community engagement platform.
Online civic engagement tools can help you address a variety of challenges:
1. Lack of informed decision making
Are you lacking confidence in your decisions or are unable to provide transparency about how you reached a decision? Online community engagement encourages broad participation, which helps you gather more community insight leading to informed and confident decision-making.
2. Lack of social research
Are you struggling to identify the real problem in your community? Online community engagement is an additional source of data and intelligence into the community’s issues, complexities, and challenges.
Plus, when you’re asking the right questions of your community members, you will be fueling social research for the better.
3. Solving ethical dilemmas
By inviting more people into the conversation via online channels, you can collaborate and draw on the collective intelligence of your citizens and solve complex local challenges.
As your online audience continues to grow and evolve over time, you will be able to connect with your community on the issues that matter to them and effectively collect targeted feedback, every time.
4. Meeting legislative requirements
More governments are being required by law to carry out community engagement on their projects and online tools can help you meet specific requirements efficiently.
Being able to access historical data from all of your consultations is incredibly powerful for compliance purposes as well.
5. Lack of community understanding
Minimizing raw and uninformed public opinion can be difficult. An online community engagement platform allows you to promote transparency and openness in a secure environment.
With a dedicated online engagement hub, you can also educate your community about your projects on a large scale. It can help you inform the entire community, not just the usual suspects.
6. Lack of representation
Online engagement enables more citizens to participate and you can gather more representative results that accurately reflect the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of diverse community members.
Over time, you can continue to build a repository of helpful data about your community to ensure each project is meeting your own historical standards of inclusivity and representation.
7. Limited resources
Running in-person events can require time, effort, and staffing. Your team might be spread thin and you could be prioritizing engagement activities based on limited financial and human resources. However, taking engagement online can help you do more with less.
An online platform for community engagement can also help you realize new benefits:
Online engagement enables you to host multiple engagement projects simultaneously, with less financial and time investment. With all of your projects in one place, you can create a single engagement hub to promote ongoing and active public participation.
9. Broader reach
In-person engagement tends to attract a vocal minority of people, time-rich people who can dominate the conversation based on their own interests or biases. Digital engagement can democratize the conversation by breaking down participation barriers and putting you in touch with hard-to-reach groups.
By moving your community engagement activities online, you are instantly removing geographical barriers and time constraints. As your community members can participate from anywhere, at any time, this opens up a new opportunity for more people to get involved.
Once you have invested in your online community engagement software platform, you can run as many projects as you like with minimal additional cost. That means you can scale up your efforts quickly.
Face-to-face events can blow out budgets incredibly fast, especially when you can’t be certain of the level of attendance or participation you may receive.
11. Rich insights
The variety of online public participation tools and data reporting features included help you collect broad and representative data. Engaging online with a variety of immersive tools helps you to tap into the collective intelligence of the community. It also helps you to unlock local knowledge in a safe, secure, and welcoming space.
You can explore a variety of public participation tools that invite engagement through multimedia, competitions, and games. They also communicate vital information in a way that accommodates a variety of learning styles. You can also offer multilingual experiences easily and enable people to engage in their native language.
With accessibility a priority for most online community engagement platforms, you can feel confident that even when reaching more people, you have accessibility top of mind.
13. Real-time updates
With an online community engagement platform, you can provide timely updates on project developments and ensure all information is up-to-date. Some platforms even allow community members to follow or opt-in to receive notifications on projects that they’re interested in.
These notifications and alerts can also provide reminders of important milestones or opportunities for further engagement.
14. Hybrid engagement
Online community engagement can complement and reinforce the traditional face-to-face engagement that you already offer for a more hybrid solution. It helps you reach people that can’t engage face-to-face and is available when you can’t engage in person.
15. Closing the loop
Building trust and demonstrating accountability to your community is much more streamlined when you have an online community engagement platform to support you. With instant access to a wealth of both quantitative and qualitative data, you are able to effectively share important insights with your community.
This ensures that you are actively ensuring your community is informed and involved throughout the project, allowing you to close the loop.
Get closer to your community engagement goals
Community engagement helps to build collaboration, buy-in, and trust. If you decide to take it online, you can continue benefiting from face-to-face engagements while expanding your vision to deliver better outcomes for the community as a whole.
Your online community engagement platform should empower your team to minimize challenges and realize new, exciting opportunities.