For major engagement activities, and for your overall engagement strategy, you need to think about how to provide information and raise interest in the community, i.e. activation. This should include ways to alert people about your project (posters, installations, social media posts) and an avenue to provide updates (website, social media group, newsletter). You might also consider setting up a regular meeting group like an energy cafe, where people talk about energy issues and solutions generally. This is something that interested members of the community can self-organise and just requires a regular meeting time and place, and the occasional local expert to provide information (but a lot of information can be gathered by the group). With ongoing engagement and information exchange, which puts the topic of neighbourhood batteries on people’s radar, you’re probably more likely to have positive reactions when you invite people to engagement activities like forums and workshops. Remember you may still need to make special efforts to get your hard to reach groups along (but including them in your activation strategy, e.g. connecting or helping set up a youth energy group, could help).
As above, providing information about your project and about neighbourhood batteries is important, and is also something you need to develop as input to planned engagement activities. Providing information about technical topics to a diverse audience requires attention to:
- Accessibility – providing information that caters to a range of people, at different stages in learning about neighbourhood batteries and with different appetites for details. A good strategy is to use layers so people can drill down to the detail they need (as we have tried to do in these guidelines).
- Learning styles – Try to cater to a range of people by presenting different formats – written text, spoken presentations/videos, visuals, infographics.
- Framing – the way the information is presented, and the particular facts you choose to provide, can tell a particular story, reflecting your visions and values. To keep your engagement open, be aware of framing and be open to different ways of thinking about the topic.
- Integrate different knowledge – information you provide may come from a particular area of knowledge e.g. engineering. Other disciplines and types of knowledge may also be relevant, e.g. social science, policy knowledge, place-based knowledge. Some of this knowledge may come from the people you are engaging with.
Finally, you need to manage your engagement activities and program. This means developing and following a schedule, establishing roles and responsibilities for your project team, responding to changes in the project, ensuring logistics and personell are in place for events. ’Harvesting’ the input from activities is another critical aspect, and requires attention when you are planning the event, to organise note-takers, or design activities in which people write down their feedback, on post-it notes, for example, or through a scribe. You also need to make sure you download and back up data from online channels including social media, paying attention to security and privacy. You also need time and expertise to analyse the feedback and present it back to participants and to decision-makers. ’Closing the loop’ is an important part of managing your engagement: feeding back to participants what you heard from them, how their input was considered, and how it influenced decisions.