High expectations from stakeholders, a diverse community spread over a vibrant region, and a focus, quite literally, on pathways to the future. Byron Shire Council had all the elements of a dynamic community engagement challenge on their recent PAMP (Pedestrian Access and Mobility Plan) and Bike Plan consultation.
The Council set out to learn about how local footpaths, cycleways, and related facilities were working for the community, what was missing, and what needed to go into planning for upgrading this infrastructure to better serve the region.
The project drew an engagement rate of 50%, generating crucial community feedback and insight on what is to be done to improve local mobility infrastructure. And its success is a lesson on how collaboration, design and planning, pre-engagement activities, and comprehensive digital and offline engagement can create and deliver a successful conversation.
Tracking local needs for better mobility infrastructure
Byron Shire’s numerous towns and villages, with sizeable populations, dot the coast and hinterland, attracting around 2.1 million visitors every year. A diverse set of communities and cultural values lend each population hub its own distinct style and identity. The Council addresses a complex and intense range of challenges in reaching out across such a large area to deliver services and respond to local needs. Roads, footpaths, cycleways and related infrastructure remain a central issue of concern for local communities, and a major area of focus for the Council in growing infrastructure to meet the needs of the region.
The Pedestrian Access Mobility Plan and the Byron Shire Bike Plan are two decade-long strategic visions for understanding and aligning with community priorities for footpaths, cycleways, and related infrastructure. Essentially, the Plans look to the community to provide feedback and information on what’s working, what isn’t and where the changes need to happen.
Over a period of two months in late 2018, the Council opened up a conversation with an online survey. To follow, five design workshops were held across the Shire. The collected insights will inform a draft PAMP and Bike Plan to be reviewed further and eventually put into action.
The Council wanted to get a clear picture of how residents were using footpaths and cycleways, with specific examples of which areas needed improvement, redevelopment, and new infrastructure. This focus on walking, rolling, and cycling infrastructure also included, as a key issue, infrastructure such as end of trip facilities and kerb ramps for restricted mobility needs.
With two distinct but related areas up for consultation, and the need to promote the development of both plans, the council looked at how best the conversation about the plans could be taken out into the community. In addition to needing to draw high levels of participation from a diverse cross-section of people, the engagement also had to meet the high expectations of elected representatives and other stakeholders. Such a challenge called for creativity, and the engagement team worked in collaboration to put together a comprehensive approach to getting the conversation in place.
How did Byron Shire Council engage better?
Starting off with a clear communications and engagement plan, the engagement team worked with a public participation framework, working out who they needed to engage and how this could be done. With sufficient lead time going into the project, the team created a strategy that could speak to their target audiences.
A major initial area of focus for the team was the creation of a visual identity for the project. The challenge here was to be able to make a simple and effective statement on what the consultation was hoping to achieve, while keeping a consistent theme that cut across the issues. ‘Walk, Roll, Ride’, with a unique illustration, emerged as the winning theme, speaking to the issues and keeping it simple. It also identified the objectives of the consultation, while bringing an element of inclusiveness to the campaign.
Mixing traditional and digital media to activate participation
In promoting the engagement to the community and generating survey leads, Byron Shire Council sparked awareness and excitement in two ways. They tapped into the local power of the region’s traditional media as well as the audiovisual capabilities of digital media.
On the digital front, the team created a simple, short video clip featuring local residents weighing in on the theme and responding to questions from the survey. With a little boost on Facebook, the video went out to targeted Byron Shire audiences and brought people into the consultation by this route. Traditional advertising in the region’s newspapers and other print publications reached out to particular demographics, taking media releases, advertorials and other promotional content out to the community. Digital and traditional mail-outs were added to this mix.
How did EngagementHQ help move the conversation?
On a combined project page for the footpath and bike plans, the team married the two separate strategies with the visual identity and provided a summary for participants. The Lifecycle tool allowed the team to show the project in
The survey was the result of intensive research, writing, and re-writing on part of the team. The language had to be inclusive, speaking across community needs. The team provided an extensive list of detailed answers for people to select, in addition to opportunities for people to provide their own responses wherever necessary.
It also had to be comprehensive, and the resultant length was cut through with various types of survey features to keep it engaging. The team used radio buttons, the Likert feature, drop down menus, single line and essay features, various page elements, and section headers to give participants a more dynamic experience.
On consultant advice, the team chose not to have compulsory registrations for the survey. As it turned out, this may have helped bring more responses. But there was an additional element which kept people in the conversation post the survey. The team added a question where people could opt to sign up with their emails to stay in the loop about further developments to the project. This strategy provoked an exceptional response and was instrumental in bringing people into the design workshops which followed. This move equipped the team with a highly targeted stakeholder database with participants who were fully involved and invested in being kept in the conversation.
To learn more about how the Byron Shire community engagement team designed and delivered an impactful conversation, tune in as they tell their story in our recent webinar.