Community Visioning: How to Capture Community Aspirations

What is community visioning?

Community visioning is a collaborative process of giving the people who live, work, and play in a place the opportunity to have a say about what they want their community to be like in the future.

Broadly, community visioning takes into account:

  • the things people love about their community and want to retain
  • the challenges and issues they want to address and solve
  • new aspects they’d like to see become a part of their community fabric.

Through this process, a community might imagine what it wants to be like in a few years, or it might look ahead to 20 years and even beyond.

Community visioning can result in a ‘big picture’ statement, a series of statements, or become the heart of a detailed community plan.

What are the outcomes?

The process creates a shared community vision that is aspirational and forward-thinking. It provides a blueprint to guide key decisions about that community, particularly those made by government. It can also help guide how services and products are provided by community-based and non-government organizationsorganisations, and how developers and other investors shape and contribute to that community.

Why is the community visioning process important?

Undertaking a collaborative community visioning process ensures the future you’re working towards as a government is the one your community wants.

It gives your community a voice, engages locals of all ages and from all walks of life in decision-making, and builds trust. Community members feel heard and valued. Bringing people together to share ideas and imagine a new future also builds community pride and social cohesion. It strengthens community identity and the vision can underpin your community brand and how you market and promote your community.

A community vision also helps guide government investment and planning in the short and long term, which can then be measured in light of progress towards the vision.

When is the right time to do community visioning?

Community visioning is often prompted by one or more of the following:

  • an election cycle, where an incoming elected body wants to check in with the community on strategic direction 
  • a change impacting your community, e.g. rapid growth, boundary change, an economic shift, social challenge, or changing demographic profile
  • the need to consolidate and refocus a large number of existing or outdated strategies.

For local governments, community visioning can play a critical role in corporate and strategic planning, land use planning, developing short and long-term budgets, and short and long-term planning for infrastructure and services.

Things to consider: Challenges and Issues


What do you want to achieve through community visioning?
  • What will you do with the resultant vision? What decision-making specifically will it influence?
  • What is your time horizon for your community vision (five years, 10 years, 20 years?)
  • Will it guide the current political term or span multiple political terms?
  • What does your community need to know to be able to meaningfully participate in the process? (What are your key messages?)
How well do you know your community?
  • Who are your primary and secondary stakeholders?
  • Who are your ‘communities within community’? (Consider demographic, geographic, cultural, and ability factors).
  • How do your communities like to be engaged?
  • What are the best methods to connect with each segment of your community? (Consider all touchpoints across your organizationorganisation)
How much time do you have to deliver community visioning?
  • What level of engagement is realistic with the time available?
How much budget do you have/need?
  • Will your engagement occur predominantly online or will you also need a budget for community-based activities?
  • Do you need a budget for marketing (printed material, social media campaigns, posters, billboards etc.)?  to connect with your communities?
What resources do you have available?
  • Do you have the expertise and capacity to deliver community visioning in-house? (Consider all elements, including engagement planning, content creation, online and in-person engagement activities, communication and marketing etc.) 
  • Do you have an online engagement platform? Does it have the tools you need to effectively deliver community visioning? Can it provide detailed data?
  • Who will undertake analysis of the data gathered from the community?
  • Who will articulate the community vision based on engagement outcomes?
  • Who will be responsible for monitoring, measuring, and reporting on outcomes once the vision is adopted?
How will you involve your elected representatives?
  • Your elected representatives can be an excellent resource during community visioning.  What information and tools do they need to support and contribute to the visioning processes?

 

community visioning process

You need to be able to tell your community

  • Why you are undertaking community visioning
  • What it means for your community
  • What the process will be 
  • How your community can get involved
  • How long the process will take
  • When and how you will communicate with them along the way

 

The community visioning process

Broadly, community visioning involves answering five key steps to determine:

StepWhich delivers…
Where are we now? An inventory of current assets, opportunities, and challenges
Where are we going?Future scenarios based on current those assets, opportunities, and challenges
Where do we want to be?Preferred future, based on shared values and aspirations
How do we get there?Decisions and actions required to make the vision possible, with clear indicators and measurements
Are we making progress?An overview of performance (through monitoring and reporting) and opportunity to recalibrate actions as necessary

 

Community visioning methods

Broad: Community-wide, highly accessible engagement that enables everyone who wants to be involved to do so, in a way that works for them. 

Targeted: Focused conversations with particular groups, segments or stakeholders, via interviews, forums, or panels.

Deliberative: A specially convened, representative, and informed panel of citizens who play an active role in decision-making.

A platform for collaboration and advocacy

Having a clear community vision helps government organizationsorganisations (and elected members) better represent their communities because they understand what is important to them from a ‘big picture’ perspective.

Community visions often transcend the remit of the level of government (or organizationorganisation) that helped create them. 

This then identifies areas where advocacy to and/or collaborative efforts with other levels of government or other stakeholders may be required to deliver particular elements of the vision. 

EngagementHQ tools for community visioning

EngagementHQ provides a range of tools and widgets that help create trust and transparency in your community visioning process.

EngagementHQ Spectrum

analyzinganalysing your Data

EngagementHQ provides purpose-built reporting and analytics tools that help identify key themes and outcomes from your visioning exercise.

For tips on analyzinganalysing engagement data, read more from Dan Popping, Practice Lead at Bang the Table.

Published Date: 23 February 2021

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