The most important part of any good community engagement activity is demonstrating to your community that their views have been heard and showing them the details of the feedback you received.
Closing the loop is essential to building trust and it also builds transparency in your decision making.
Good closing the loop practices make your engagement activities more robust and genuine.
The best part is, implementing the practice isn’t an even onerous task.
In this article, we look at couple good examples and techniques used by our clients to closing the loop on their projects.
Regular news updates
Regular news updates are the simplest way to close the loop on your consultations.
A great example of using regular news updates as a closing the loop technique was used by Yarra Valley Water when conducting their 2017 Water Pricing Review using EngagementHQ.
As part of their engagement activities they employed a citizens jury and conducted a deliberative process as well as usual public engagement activities.
To close the loop on their process they deployed a combination of the EHQ Newsfeed tool and the Newsletter tool to keep community in the loop about what they heard throughout the consultation.
As you can see in the below image, news feed items were added after each citizens jury meeting to provide updates to the community about what occurred during the sessions and the newsletter tool was used to send direct communications to community members to alert them to the updates.
Each update included a brief summary of what happened during the sessions as well as some key quotes from participants on the day.
Using the newsfeed in this way is a great way to close the loop in an ongoing fashion. This allows community to see the outcomes of your engagement activities as they occur and can also help to keep them interested and engaged with the project.
Moreover, the newsfeed was also used to publish jury recommendations as well as provide links directly to the summary of community feedback.
Publishing jury recommendations alongside general community feedback is a great way to allow everyone who participated to digest the recommendations and feedback for themselves.
Finally, the newsfeed tool allowed for the publishing of the underlying themes and outcomes of the engagement as well as providing a place for the organisation to publish the responses to the engagement.
What you can see in this example, is the use of the newsfeed tool in EHQ in order to provide regular and ongoing updates about the engagement activities as well as a place to publish the final outcomes of the consultation.
We highly recommend the newsfeed tool as the quickest way to keep your community in the loop.
As well as written reports as a way of closing the loop, infographics can also provide an engaging means for presenting back your engagement findings to your community.
The below example is from the City of Adelaide’s consultation to inform the redevelopment of the City Skate Park.
Again, using the newsfeed tool to provide updates, City of Adelaide linked to this beautiful infographic as their way of presenting back the findings from their consultation.
Using infographics are an engaging way to present information and can easily be put together in graphic design applications such as Canva.com and other easy to use infographic makers. Check out this blog post for some suggestions for easy to use online tools.
Infographics allow you to summarise information into neat images, graphs and charts and tell a story about what you heard from your community.
One of the best examples we have seen of ongoing and transparent closing the loop was from Australia Post.
In the example below, you can see a conversation summary which was published and shared at the closure of a forum discussion.
Each conversations summary document was then placed in a document library as a record of the conversation and also distributed internally in the organisation.
The best part about deploying a conversation summary strategy, is that it allows you to setup simple templates which can be repurposed for each new conversation.
This is a great way to save time and also have consistency in the design of your closing the loop documentation.
In these conversation summaries, you can see three sections summarising the key themes from the conversation as well as some key dot points and pull quotes from the forum itself.
Below this information, you can see a snapshot of who participated, including age and location.
Both of these devices are a great way to close the loop on forum discussions as they show who participated and also, what was said.
Australia Post took a similar approach to closing the loop on their quick poll engagements.
Below you can see an example of how they deployed a similar template strategy to close the loop on their quick poll activities.
Again, by utilising templates, closing the loop is made much easier by simply updating the information on the template after each conversation ends.
Another great example of best practice closing the loop is the use of an interactive report.
The city of Casey put together a great example of this when they finalised their Casey Next community visioning engagement in 2016.
By updating their EHQ project page with direct links to their reports, they were easily able to direct community members to the outcomes of the consultation.
Here you can see two options to view the engagement report including an online report (interactive) and also a full .pdf report.
The most impressive part about the interactive report is the ability to manipulate and interrogate the raw engagement data via an embedded data visualisation.
If you have access to tools such as Microsoft Power BI or other data visualisation tools, incorporating your data and findings into your engagement report and allowing your community to interact with the data is a great way to increase the amount of transparency in your consultation.
It also acts as a check on your decision making and reminds you to properly justify any decisions you have made.
This level of commitment to open data in engagement is undoubtedly a best practice closing the loop technique.
For more reading about closing the loop, check out Lesson #10: Closing the Loop on Online Engagement written by our CEO Matt Crozier and also make sure you download our Tip Sheet, Closing the loop to maintain an engaged community.