Benefits of Online Community Engagement

Sally Hussey

Generally speaking, community engagement is built on the democratic idea that everyone who is affected by an issue that impacts their community should have a say in the decision making around it.

Although there’s no commonly agreed definition, essentially community engagement is about mutual decision making, where people, governments and organisations work collaboratively to create sustainable visions for their community’s future. For governments and organisations, it’s about working with and listening to communities to forge long term relationships and develop meaningful solutions to complex issues.

But, while many models and frameworks of public participation shape how to engage communities, much can depend on how these conversations happen, where they take place, and how they best include the diverse range of voices that have a stake in them.

Generally speaking, community engagement is built on the democratic idea that everyone who is affected by an issue that impacts their community should have a say in the decision making around it.

Although there’s no commonly agreed definition, essentially community engagement is about mutual decision making, where people, governments and organisations work collaboratively to create sustainable visions for their community’s future. For governments and organisations, it’s about working with and listening to communities to forge long term relationships and develop meaningful solutions to complex issues.

But, while many models and frameworks of public participation shape how to engage communities, much can depend on how these conversations happen, where they take place, and how they best include the diverse range of voices that have a stake in them.

Online community engagement brings added dimensions and benefits to decision making, building trust between governments and citizens and empowering community ownership in the shared responsibility for improving services, projects and program.

Why we engage online?

Benefits of online community engagement

Engaging Unrepresented Groups

Online community engagement gives everyone a chance to be heard and builds greater social cohesion.

Informed decision making

Making sure people have their say, and are listened to, and involving the people most affected, leads to decisions that are more likely to be legitimate, effective and sustainable.

Building positive relationships between and within communities has a flow on effect of strengthening relations between communities, governments and organisations to engender better informed decision making. The reach and accessibility of online engagement provides insights into the needs, priorities and capabilities of local communities and ensures investment is based on the expressed needs of the community. Through improved, open communications, too, it makes for better policy making. In short, for better, more informed decisions.

In the legitimate community support for decisions, moreover, online participation allows support for a decision to be developed with stakeholders before it is formally taken up. Embedded in the planning stages, it addresses risk management, tests project assumptions and scope, as well as proposed solutions. It gives due consideration for all stakeholders involved.

Better Responsiveness and Transparency

Online engagement allows for continuous conversations between communities, organisations and governments which, in turn, builds positive relationships.

While there are challenges to selecting an online engagement platform, the provision of continuous engagement is advantageous in building trust between governments, organisations and the communities they represent. Counteracting the increasing lack of trust that characterises relationships between governments and citizens, open, continuous communications and deliberative methods/participatory processes ensures better responsiveness to the priorities and needs identified by local people. Continuous engagement activities can drive open communications and maintain regular contact unavailable to traditional engagement activities. This, in turn, increases trust between governments and the provision of services and programs based on community-determined needs and priorities.

Organisations, too, can tap into online community engagement to drive organisational change and bring people together to foster better collaboration. It can build participation, community knowledge and feedback into projects as a vital and sustainable way of doing things.

Unearths Real Issues

Online community engagement can bring out the issues that really matter to the community

Read the Full Community Engagement 101 Series

Let's activate your community. Request a demo