Thinking about the best technique(s) to effectively engage with our audience(s) is the fun bit.
Because you’ve planned your engagement thoroughly, you know who will speak with you, where they are located, what you want to get from them and what they can influence – this will help you with tool selection.
We recommend choosing multiple tools for any engagement. Look at the EngagementHQ Tools Spectrum which shows a range of feedback environments that flows from ‘open’ to ‘mixed’ to ‘controlled’.
An open environment is where people can freely engage with each other, whereas a controlled one is where participants cannot see other people’s contributions. This progressive flow helps you to understand each of our tools and how they facilitate different types of feedback within different environments.
Providing an easy and fun way to engage meaningfully
Selecting the most appropriate tool may also mean that you need various tools on your page to capture a certain group within your audience or a specific stakeholder.
Decide what tools best fit your objectives, how you’re reporting back to your decision-makers and on what issues. Small or more defined engagement processes may make tool selection a simple process. However, you should match the issue and need for feedback with the right tool.
For instance, we wouldn’t recommend forcing the Maps tool into a question or issue which isn’t spatially based. People will be confused about what you want them to do and won’t know where to place a pin. Similarly, we wouldn’t recommend using the Forum to consult on a Resource Management Act (RMA) submission.
Try to use tools that suit the different stages of your engagement, this will give you meaningful inputs across the subject or issue.
Using a variety of tools to cater to different audiences
Some people may only want to do a yes/no Quick Poll, or others may leave a comment in the Stories tool. If there is a formal submission to be filled out, all tools could encourage participants to fill out the survey. All collected information should be taken into account to inform decision making.
It’s important to note here that surveys have their place but they only give you data within the boundaries that you create. Conversely, the Stories and Ideas tools encourage people to express their views and submit their ideas freely.
Using different tools during the engagement process
You should add different tools throughout your engagement process as it evolves. It’s good practice to review your process at the mid-way point of your project, to look at whether the tools are engaging the right people. This could help identify whether certain groups that will be impacted are not being represented.
For instance, if a Council is gathering community feedback on the design of a new skatepark, you want both adults, young people and children to contribute. If children’s comments are missing at the mid-way point, the Ideas Tool may capture that age group more effectively than a survey. You could also embed a short video explaining what the project is about (in this example, 30 seconds or maximum 1 minute ample).
Offline feedback is important
Some of your audience may respond to a survey but a key stakeholder may need a face-to-face meeting. There may be different engagement levels and times where certain tools work best. Various stakeholders may be able to influence the project in different ways; ensure you have set clear expectations and opportunities for this to occur.
Combining online and offline methods in a blended engagement approach can better reach audiences. In the case of the design of a community skatepark and the lack of children’s feedback, for instance, you could go to other community parks and schools and ask directly. This means going to where the people are. You could ask people to fill out a hardcopy/online form, write ideas on a chalkboard, or have them provide their opinion verbally – it depends on the data which you’re trying to collect. You would then plug the information into your EHQ site manually, or have a tablet available for people to submit their ideas by using your selected EHQ Tool(s).
In the hypothetical case of a new community facility being planned by a Council, you could send Councillors or Council representatives to fetes, farmers markets, local events and sporting fixtures with hardcopy surveys as well as a tablet to gather information.
Tool selection impacts on reporting and the decision-making process
The information you gather is a result of your initial planning on the kinds of data you wanted. You may have wanted quantitative yes/no information (Quick Poll), as well as responses to more qualitative and open-ended questions (Forum).
In the planning phase, think about how you’ve been asked to report back to your decision makers, and the kinds of information needed to fulfill that request. Also, consider the time it will take to sort through feedback.
Analysing the data after your engagement process is about looking for common themes about what people have said as well as knowing who said it and why. If you gather this information during your engagement process via good tool selection, you will help your organisation to make an informed decision based on the community’s views. Enjoy!