Don't Ask For Feedback

community engagement

MAKE ME A PROMISE: YOU WON’T ASK YOUR COMMUNITY FOR FEEDBACK UNLESS YOU’RE GOING TO USE IT.


Public engagement is critical to building stronger communities, but it’s okay to admit that there are some issues that don’t require public input. Other times, issues are too big, too impactful, or frankly too controversial to move forward without your residents.
 
Regardless of where you land in between these two extremes, identifying what level of engagement you need to be successful is an important first step to your community engagement campaign. That includes clarifying the role you expect your residents to fulfill.
 
Level: Inform and Consult
For routine matters, issues where interests are fairly simple or issues that have been heard or addressed through earlier processes, informing and consulting with residents works best. At this level, residents should be knowledgeable and provide simple feedback. Use methods that help spread the word and provide a quick glance into community perspectives:

  • Fact sheets
  • Informal surveys
  • Community presentations
  • Newsletters
  • Public events 

Level: Involve
A deeper level of engagement is best when there are mobilized groups, competing views, and a strong need for dialogue (not just input). At this level, residents should be prepared to help define problems and find solutions. Use methods that will create opportunity for authentic conversation:

  •  Workshops
  • Charrettes
  • Stakeholder meetings
  • Focus groups 

Level: Collaborate
For issues that generate intense controversy, that require education and buy-in by key constituencies, that have long-term, far-reaching effects or multiple jurisdictions, true collaboration is needed. Use methods that help residents fulfill their role of making informed decisions and forging effective compromises:

  • Advisory committees
  • Facilitated participatory decision-making
  • Consensus-building


Whether informing and consulting, involving, or collaborating, determining your level of engagement can provide the framework you need to define expectations and use the right tools. And most importantly, it will help you avoid asking for feedback that is never put to good use.
 


Kim Newcomer
CEO | Founder
Slate Communications