When preparing a community engagement strategy, you need to know who your community members are, because if you don't understand key aspects about your community, such as their history, age, social and economic characteristics or even their political persuasion, your engagement may not be as effective as it could be ...
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Community (or stakeholder) profiles are a useful way of developing an understanding of the people in a geographical area or a specific community of interest.
This understanding can assist in the development of a community engagement plan and influence who the key stakeholder groups are and how best to get them involved in your project. By undertaking demographic modelling of the community you're trying to engage with, you will be in a better position to establish what techniques are likely to gain more traction – for example, if the population is dominated by young professionals, public meetings that eat up one's free time are unlikely to be an attractive prospect, whereas online methods that are easy and quick to use will likely experience greater participation rates.
Furthermore, you will gain an understanding of what motivates your community - are they pro-development, environmentally conscious, have they responded positively to past projects or do they have deep rooted historical connections to a place that may influence their feedback?
"Sometimes the best laid plans will be unsuccessful because the community has been misunderstood or not adequately understood."
A community profile can:
- highlight the gaps in your understanding of the community
- encourage broader thinking about ‘who’ a community is and ‘who’ should be targeted in an engagement project, and what methods will be most effective
- help determine who is likely to be affected by a project, and therefore may require additional attention
When you really know who the community is, you will be better placed to design engagement strategies that are going to work.