We've reached a time where emerging technology is no longer a trend, but is generally expected. In 2019, digital engagement will continue to assist alongside traditional methods but we will reach a point that we have to find a way to foster a relationship with communities rather than simply ask for their feedback.

Trust will be more important than ever

People are becoming more and more aware of the safety of their data and what it is used for. It's become extremely important to be trusted by your community and stakeholders so they can feel safe when giving feedback that includes information about them. Keep your community informed of upcoming events and consultations to create a relationship with them which results in trust. Using a trusted engagement platform that keeps your data safe is absolutely essential.

Creativity will be essential

It is essential to be creative in the way that you reach your community and stakeholders – you must be in their face where they spend their time. People are busy, and if giving feedback isn't convenient for them, it's unlikely that they will participate. In 2019, people will be spending more time on their phones than ever before. We've reached a point where many people don't have the time or energy to attend town meetings and consultation sessions, so providing residents the opportunity to engage from the comfort of their own home is absolutely essential.

 Real data will defend your planning decisions

When residents are affected by the projects that are going on in their community, a spotlight is shown on each decision that is made. Planners are under more pressure than ever to make the right choices for their community. Planning with a collaborative style of decision-making must treat information and data as an asset within their decision making approaches. Using data gathered from community input gives decision makers a way to identify desired opportunities, predict future community trends and explain why certain decisions were made.

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Understanding how your audience communicates is vital

Your community and stakeholders expect to be communicated with in a way that is easy to them. When asking them to participate in your digital engagement consultation, it is important to research and understand how your community members and stakeholders communicate in order to create a trusting relationship.

Instant accessibility will be an expectation

In 2019, people will expect everything to be instantly accessible at all times. With smartphones, we can get any information we need from the palm of our hands and we would expect that to be the same with giving input to community projects. Providing a digital engagement option makes it easy for stakeholders to give their feedback whenever and wherever it is convenient for them.

Authenticity will combat relationships lost through tech and automation

With digital engagement becoming more prominent than ever, community engagement professionals are naturally skeptical that authenticity could be left behind. The single most important thing to understand is that digital engagement will never replace your traditional efforts, but rather work alongside them to reach a broader audience and make it more convenient for community and stakeholders to participate.