The distances in remote regions can sometimes leave local residents feeling under-represented as they often miss out on having a say about matters that affect them. As a result, organisations with projects in these remote areas are beginning to recognise the value of online community engagement.
By shifting the conversation online, members from these remote communities have the opportunity to be engaged and involved in a project, without having to travel lengthy distances to participate in a traditional community meeting. Online engagement also provides the opportunity for those members of the community who are unable to attend community meetings to get involved, thus reaching a broader cross-section of individuals. For example, in some smaller/remote communities some residents might live in the city and return on the weekends.
Additionally, unlike a community meeting, anonymity is maintained during online engagement. Anonymity is particularly important in smaller rural communities, especially where there is an assertive group with a difference of opinion, leaving some individuals feeling too intimidated to be involved. By assuring anonymity, these less assertive community members are empowered and more likely to get involved.
Organisations undertaking community engagement in regional communities will also benefit from an online approach, as a higher participation rate will result in more feedback and better decision making.
Online community engagement on a particular project in rural areas assists in creating a better understanding about issues that are of value to the community, as opposed to making assumptions. It can also reveal key information that assists an organisation’s decision making process regarding a project or development.
Residents in these rural communities are passionate about their regions and want to be part of the dialogue, and now it is easy for them to be involved. The online engagement process is transparent and creates a sense of community ownership, as they have a voice, are being heard, and are part of the decision making process.