As we await a new and hopefully refreshing year, there is no better time to reflect and learn from the adaptations we have been forced to make throughout 2020. We have had to be creative to find solutions to challenges we’ve never encountered before. From conferences and town meetings to our daily work, we have had to completely rethink the way we engage our community.

This year has taught us that even if we aren’t able to meet face-to-face with citizens and stakeholders, community engagement has proven to be more important than ever, and finding ways to reach people is absolutely essential. Looking into 2021, it will be important that we take both our successes and failures over the last year and learn from them in the new year.

Trust is still more important than ever

Distrust in government is becoming increasingly common throughout the pandemic. This distrust isn’t just limited to local councils or cities, but in people that are viewed to work for the government in any capacity who are often are lumped together, whether intentionally or not. According to the last available data (2018) from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, only 33.3 percent of United States Citizens have trust in their government.

So how can we work toward gaining trust from our residents and stakeholders? We’ve got you covered with 5 tips to build trust in local government.

Creating an authentic human connection is essential

This may seem almost impossible when we are forced to communicate completely virtually, but finding ways to create a human connection is beneficial to all people during the difficult times we’re currently faced with. Hosting a Virtual Town Hall Meeting is a great way to give people a way to get involved and provide feedback from the comfort of their own home.

The use of social media to engage and retain community attention is increasingly successful

This may seem obvious, but people are spending more time on social media than ever before. Most of us are stuck at home due to social distancing restrictions and have been spending much more time online to socialize. This means that there is no better time to reach your community through social media. Let’s give our citizens and stakeholders something to interact with on social media that contributes to something great and helps them feel connected to their community.

Using interactive engagement strategies will help to keep people interested

Providing interactive and fun ways for people to engage in community consultations is a great way to keep them interested and coming back for more. Digital engagement tools make this easy! We have seen great success when councils have an engagement platform that the community knows they can always go to for information and to give feedback on projects around them.

Continuous engagement and information output will create a lasting relationship with your community

There is a major difference between conducting community outreach once, for one project, and continually engaging your community on all projects going on around them. When you ask for feedback on one project but never report your findings to your community, you might actually be hurting your relationship with them. Keeping constant communication to both inform and engage residents and stakeholders is crucial to fostering a healthy relationship with your community.

As we’ve learned in the past year, life can be unpredictable but one thing that has remained is the importance of citizen engagement and keeping stakeholders involved in community decisions. The difficulties we’ve faced have forced us to form new strategies to conduct outreach and have allowed us to reach more citizens than ever before. Let’s keep this momentum going to continue to reach more and more stakeholders and create better project outcomes that benefit all parts of the community.

Here at Social Pinpoint and Consultation Manager, we are constantly striving to better understand and empower organizations towards best practice engagement and keep up to date with this ever-evolving industry. If you have any questions on how you could implement some of these learnings into your engagement strategy we would love to hear from you!