Engaging online increases participation rates. Online digital platforms such as social media have helped foster this. Today, it takes longer to organize a community town hall meeting, compared to asking for citizen participation online.
It's important to connect with the community both online and offline. If you only interact with one group then you'll miss out on interacting with a large proportion of your community. As a policy-maker, you can become more aware of the importance of citizen participation and building community relationships. You want citizens to help make informed decisions to help build your community.
Community participation is an important part of any decision-making process. The more opinions you have, the more chance you have to discover any major hurdles or roadblocks. Community participation is a great way to gain reassurance for a project to go ahead.
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Why is online engagement important?
We're all struggling to add extra tasks to our list. We have a limited time-frame, a never-ending list of commitments and yet, we are still trying to pile on more work. Online engagement tools make it easier for willing participants to engage.
Online platforms give you an opportunity to reach out to residents who wouldn't take part if the event was in a public place. Busy residents, millennials and the cynics are a few examples.
Benefits of community participation:
1. More opinions
Policy makers want to be seen as community-friendly, well-informed and engaging. Successful projects need two-way communication and a large amount of community participation.
2. Gain new insight
Offline engagement neglects groups of people who would like to participate but are constrained by other factors such as time or don't like physically participating in projects. Online gives them another channel and reason to participate.
3. Gather more information
Public involvement brings more information to a decision. This may include scientific or technical knowledge, knowledge of the context of the project as well as history. More information can make the difference between a good and poor decision.
4. Community loyalty
When the community is involved in a project, they feel like they've created an impact of the decision-making process and become quite loyal. This is important for when not all individuals agree with the outcome of the project.
5. A numbers game
For public agencies with political leaders, the total number of people engaged is important. Engaging higher numbers gives the elected representatives confidence in their decision.
Engaging online increases participation and is an important part of any decision-making process. The more opinions you have, the more chance you have to discover any major hurdles or roadblocks. Community participation is also a great way to gain reassurance for a project to go ahead. There are many reasons why community participation is important. If you want a detailed explanation, you can read one of our past articles about reasons to participate.