How small councils are engaging their community online: Yankalilla council’s online “brand” engagement
Yankalilla is a small agriculturally-based town on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia, located 72 km south of the state’s capital of Adelaide. The town is nestled in the Bungala River valley, overlooked by the southern Mount Lofty Ranges and acts as a service centre for the surrounding agricultural district. This article outlines how small councils are engaging their community online.
A Place Brand for the Yankalilla District
In 2014, the District Council of Yankalilla engaged their community in the development of a place brand. The project aimed to capture the District’s identity and opportunity and distill this into a suite of messages that promoted living in, working in and visiting the area.
The goal was to allow all stakeholders – nearly 5000 residents, business owners, community groups and a high percentage of absentee property owners spread across 750sq kms and 10 townships – the opportunity to express views about their attachments to the district and the values of the ‘place’ that shape its identity. The challenge was lifting people’s vision to consider the district as a whole above personal interest.
Engaging online and f2f
[pullquote]An astonishing 66% of people who visited Your Say Yankalilla interacted with site information[/pullquote]
More importantly, the site was able to provide information to inform the discussion. Yankalilla used media such as Slideshare, rather than a PDF, to draw more people to interact with the background to the project.
Also, all online activities were supported by offline engagement activities. The council attended events and hosted information and discussion sessions to gather public opinions.
The team at Yankalilla was able to overcome a range of misunderstandings and incorrect assumptions throughout the engagement process. The combination of online access to information and dialogue, backed up direct contact in their towns was able to help them build on their relationships with the community.
Yankalilla was pleasantly surprised by the emotion and passion for their part of South Australia shared by residents, business owners and holidaymakers alike.
Many people were keen to protect the character and identity of their town. Yankalilla learned that this type of issue could not be managed by a simple discussion, they needed a process for informing the community of the overall vision and then involving them to develop it into reality.
People were able to engage enthusiastically in discussions about the future name of the region. This demonstrated the value of including a tangible ‘hook’ for their engagement that was able to draw their community into a broader discussion.
Engaging more of the community
An excellent outcome for Yankalilla was the involvement of a greater number of community members who are not usually involved in their consultations.
The group that Yankalilla sought was non-permanent residents, who make up a large proportion of the ratepayer base (47%), but because they do not live in the local area all year, are not always easy to engage on local matters.
Roughly one-quarter of respondents identified as a non-permanent resident (above), a significant number for a group not in the area at the time.
The team at Yankalilla aim to:
- Inform and seek input from the newly elected council to continue the project
- Take the learning they have made and incorporate it into future engagement processes
- Focus on educating the community around the vision for further engagement
- Work on embedding engagement practice further into the organisation, so it is better able to plan engagements in future
The process of engaging its community online was a learning experience for both the community and the council in this case and they are confident that both the officers and community will take to the online environment with even more enthusiasm in future.
Photo credit: Everest Photography
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