Being an agent of change isn’t easy at the best of times. Add a backlog of policy decisions, lost institutional knowledge and a climate emergency into the mix, and it’s easy to feel burnt out before the new year begins. So here are the top 6 agenda items to help you focus time and energy on what matters in 2022.
1. Consult early on policy decisions
In the last few years, there’s been an understandable reassignment of many key communication staff to booster public health campaigns, with few able to prioritize the essential task of updating (now painfully old) policy. But, whether it’s supply-chain issues, energy policies or changes in transportation, many are scrambling to recover lost time on overdue consultations. Our tip: engage early to foster co-creation and trust with a public now acutely aware of their right to have their say.
2. Run a community advocacy program
For those of you preparing for local elections, now is the time to kick off your community advocacy program to ensure you access the necessary funds and meet the growing needs of your community.
3. Deliver on ‘climate emergency’ rhetoric
Local authorities, especially those who have proclaimed a ‘climate emergency’, are now under pressure to deliver radical solutions to a public that is far better informed and alarmed about the dangers of doing nothing. Maybe it’s kicking off local traffic schemes that promote walking/cycling and reduce car dependency, an energy efficiency scheme, or a waste management initiative, but now is the time to ‘make good’. See examples of climate consultations from across the globe.
4. Take a chance to innovate
Traditionally, the people working to strengthen democracy have been caught flat-footed by the pace of new trends and innovations thanks to internal bureaucracy. One massive benefit of large scale operational and institutional change is the chance to innovate. Now is the time to advocate for the change you want to see. Maybe it’s increased feedback points throughout the constitute journey, benchmarking community satisfaction or experimenting with your engagement toolkit. More on the trends changing community engagement here.
5. Make use of available funding
Whether it’s technology adoption, community connectivity or innovation, funds are being made available globally to develop technological capability and systems of government. The PropTech Engagement Fund launched to support the widespread adoption of digital citizen engagement tools and services in the UK. The USA has passed a $1.2trillion infrastructure bill to ensure every American has access to the internet, here’s looking at you ‘smart cities’.
While in Australia, the Community Investments Stream offers $5000 to $1million grants to support new or expanded local events, strategic regional plans or leadership and capability strengthening activities that provide economic and social benefits to regional and remote areas.
6. Account for skills & experience shortages
We’ve seen a considerable shake-out among those who work in public engagement, and reliance on consultancies won’t substitute in-house know-how. So if you’re one of the surefooted specialists who know the difference between open, mixed and controlled engagement environments, now is the time to upskill internal teams. Document engagement strategy, create blueprints and build templates to streamline consultation processes to reap more long-term benefits like meeting or exceeding budgetary goals, reducing risk and increased trust.
With a tough economic backdrop and the inherent destabilising effect of the pandemic, it’s easy to feel hesitant about moving forward with public engagement, but if the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that we can no longer take the status quo for granted, change comes quickly and it’s the relationships we hold with people (both internally & externally) that endure.
Want to discuss these trends further with fellow community engagement practitioners? Reach out to us!