What is a conversation kit for community engagement?

In a recent Staff Pick, we looked how the City of Vincent in Western Australia used a conversation kit as part of their community strategic planning process.

I’ve outlined the finer details of developing a conversation kit including: what goes into one, when they should be used, and advantages and drawbacks of using them in your engagement activities.

Use this as a guide when thinking about developing a conversation kit for your next online consultation.

What is a conversation kit?

A conversation kit is a document that guides small group meetings of people within a community, normally at home, work or other local venues. They are sometimes referred to as kitchen table conversations due to the casual style of their interactions and of course the obvious fact they often happen in the home over a kitchen table.

Conversation is a powerful engagement method to encourage self-organising communities to listen, debate and share ideas on a set of issues, challenges or opportunities. The aim of a conversation kit is to invite people to discuss these issues in a comfortable environment and encourage them to report back their discussions as part of formal consultation or engagement.

This is most often done using an online engagement tool such as a survey or submission form, by post or directing groups back to an online engagement portal.

What does a conversation kit include?

They key components of a conversation kit include the following;

  • background information about the project including the issues or opportunities for discussion
  • instructions on how to host the conversation, including ways of reaching out to your friends and family
  • examples of key questions
  • details on how to make a submission of conversation outcomes

You might also include your organisation’s contact details and any special information regarding logistical matters, especially if you are offering venues or staffing as part of the process.

Conversation kits are developed in a variety of forms but are often available as a pdf download from your consultation site or available at pop-up events or at the organisation’s reception counter. You may choose design the conversation kit with your consultation branding or a simply create a plain-text set of instructions. If you want to get creative and have the resources available, you might consider creating an instructional video to accompany your conversation kit and host it online.

When should conversation kits be used?

Conversation kits can be used as part of many different consultation programs but are particularly well suited for projects that involve future planning or highly contentious issues. Using conversation kits during future planning, such as community visioning projects, is an effective way to maximise community buy-in and extend the reach of your engagement activities.

These kits could also be used in situations where you would like to encourage a ground-swell of interest within the community. By actively targeting community groups, schools, sporting clubs and households, you can use conversation kits to build social networks within the community and drive them back to your engagement platform to provide feedback.

Conversation kits are also extremely useful for engaging with regional and remote communities which might be physically difficult to visit in person or reach online. Engaging with culturally and linguistically diverse communities is another great reason you might decide to incorporate a conversation kit into your engagement program. This allows communities to host meetings in their own languages removing many of the barriers to participation that might come with formally organised meetings hosted by unknown facilitators.

What are the drawbacks of using conversation kits?

There are very few drawbacks to utilising conversation kits as part of your engagement. As long as you have promoted your consultation thoroughly and properly designed your kit with all of the necessary information, you should be able gain some benefit from including them in your projects.

It is important however, to keep track of how many times the conversation kit was downloaded. You may even consider setting up a registration form when capturing feedback via your online engagement project so you can collect as much information about your participants as possible. Having a good overview of how you have engaged with your community will be crucial for reporting and evaluating your consultation.

Another potential risk with conversation kits is that your community may have meaningful interactions as per your instructions and then forget to provide input into your consultation page. Following up with regular updates and email campaigns helps remind your community of due dates for feedback and helps drive them back to your online project pages.

Remember, it’s crucial that your conversation kits always link back to your your project page or online engagement site.

Where can I find examples of conversation kits?

Below are some example of conversation kits to help you get some ideas. Click on the images to download the consultation kits.

Conversation kit

City of Vincent, Western Australia have used a conversation kit as part of their Community Strategic Plan Consultations.

Snowies Wild Horse Review

The Wild Horse Plan conversation kit is a great example of how to encourage your community to discuss issues.

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