Traditional Community Engagement
We know that hearing diverse opinions in the engagement process leads to better project outcomes. To do this, you need to provide a welcoming and accessible space for questions, feedback, and dialogue that allows more people to join the conversation.
That’s what traditional public meetings were designed to do and why they are such an important part of the community engagement process. But because they tend to attract the same, loud voices, they often leave you wondering, “but what about everyone else?”
Enter, digital engagement. Digital engagement brings more voices to the table by eliminating many of the barriers that prevent people from participating in the first place. But, it’s not a substitute for in-person meetings. For a truly inclusive outreach strategy, digital engagement should complement in-person engagement and boots-on-the-ground outreach efforts.
Over the course of the last year, we saw virtual meetings take off when in-person meetings couldn’t happen. We’ve known for a long time that barriers to attending in-person meetings (childcare, transportation, work schedules, etc) limit participation to a few. The option for remote participation removed some of these barriers and brought some voices to the table that had never before been heard. Moving forward, community members need both options and states are in the process of deciding whether or not to extend executive orders that will allow virtual meetings to continue.
Our vote? Virtual options should continue as in-person meetings resume, and adding a digital component will open the conversation to an even broader base of the community. Digital engagement is a more cost-effective, productive, and inclusive way to gather community feedback and engage the broader community. The result? Better projects for the community and fewer costly delays for the project team.
With in-person meetings resuming in many parts of the country, how can we ensure we’re using digital and in-person strategies in tandem to get more people involved?
- Offer multilingual engagement. Nearly 22% of U.S. residents speak a language other than English at home. If you’re only engaging the community in English, chances are you won’t hear from all of your supporters.
- Host productive community meetings. In-person meetings can be contentious, but they are an important part of the process.
- Reevaluate how you engage. Cultivating an inclusive community engagement strategy is a crucial step in building projects that will improve our neighborhoods. Is your community engagement strategy inclusive? Our Inclusive Community Engagement Checklist can help you get started.