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Guide to Drafting Engaging, Productive Comment Topics

engaging questions community planning

An often overlooked challenge of community engagement is developing engaging questions and finding the best way to ask them. Asking good questions requires both an understanding of your target audience, as well as skill and practice. Well-written, thoughtful questions will provide your team with valuable insight.

This is no easy task, but we’re here to help you get it right!


Before launching a community engagement strategy, be clear on the purpose and objectives of the effort. 

  • How can community feedback be used to make a project better?
  • What’s negotiable and which aspects of the project are set in stone?
  • What’s the purpose of soliciting feedback? What will be done with it?
  • How can we ensure that the comments gathered are useful and can be incorporated into the final plan? 

Community members are more likely to engage when they feel there is real opportunity for their voice to be heard and/or they feel strongly about the topics presented. 


That messaging varies depending on the stage of your project, and the comment topics can and should evolve over time. Consider:

  • What messaging would inspire community members to give their feedback and support?
  • What questions will they have about the project? 
  • What may make them nervous or uneasy about this change in their neighborhood?

The questions should match the current phase of the project and should present real opportunities for community members to contribute to the project. For example:

  • If your site plans are finalized, don’t ask for opinions on the facade of the building. 
  • If you’re looking for which businesses should fill the retail space, ask the community what they need. This vital local knowledge will also increase the likelihood that the future retail tenant will be successful.

Our team has seen over and over again what types of questions are most effective for generating positive, productive engagement. Although questions should be tailored to your project, we recommend using some of these as a guide, depending on the goals and stage of your project. 

Development Stage: Post acquisition 

Goal: understand community needs and priorities 

Why: discover how to create a project that reflects the unique qualities and needs of the neighborhood

  • How can we highlight the community’s history and honor its roots and culture? 
  • What types of businesses do you most frequently use in the area? 
  • What would you say is the best quality of the area and what needs the most improvement? 

Development Stage: Project plan creation and socialization 

Goal: Shape the specifics of development plans 

Why: Incorporate community feedback to speed-up the approval process

  • What types of retail businesses do you want to see incorporated into this project? 
  • This project includes added green/open space. Which uses of this space will be more beneficial for the community? 
  • What kinds of streetscape improvements would be most beneficial to the neighborhood? 
  • The project plans to add much-needed housing to the neighborhood. What types of new housing would you be most excited to see? 

If you’d like to learn more about how our Customer Success team can help your team craft an outreach strategy, reach out to us at

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