Can we overcomplicate Community Engagement?

Finding beauty in simplicity can be a rewarding undertaking. Application of this principle can be found in life and community engagement!

We choose to engage our community for a number of reasons. Ultimately, we want to give the community a voice and use their input to help make informed decisions that benefit society as a whole. At the conclusion of a consultation, what do we want? Data. Obtaining useful data to drive a clear focus moving forward, is one of many goals. But do we always achieve this?

In today's society, we are a busy bunch and our attention is spread over many aspects of life.

When we ask stakeholders for input on a project, we need to not only draw them in, we need to maintain their attention in that moment so they make a meaningful contribution.

Complex interfaces, drawn out surveys and confusing interactions can leave stakeholders exasperated. In these instances, drop-offs are likely and it is put into the 'too hard basket.' The goal should be to engage them in way that induces a feeling of accomplishment or allows them to easily focus in on an important subject they are passionate about, not make them feel like they are taking an exam.

It must be acknowledged that different projects require different approaches to engage the community and tailoring these efforts appropriately is important, in order to get the best results. However, the easier we make it for stakeholders, the more likely they will make a contribution.

With this in mind, a simplistic approach in turn should deliver cleaner data to use for reporting, information sharing and decision making.

Situational-specific details, differences in stakeholder attitude and the complexity of a project determines the subsequent criteria that needs to be met but do we need to make it complex for stakeholders?

As much as possible, we should at least ask the question: how can we make it easier for stakeholders to engage.