Contexts of engagement

Last modified: 23 August 2022

Engagement includes your regular interactions with partners and contributors, and planned processes and events with stakeholders including community members. There is no one particular phase of your project when you need to do engagement. Many relationships will last throughout your planning and implementation phases and need to be maintained throughout. Similarly, decisions and actions are taken throughout the project, and may be revisited and revised as the project unfolds. Your engagement planning therefore needs to be a thread that runs through your whole project and is responsive to changes as it progresses. Engagement is one of the costs of your project, in terms of time, effort and money, that needs to be factored into your business model. Because of this, you need to make strategic decisions about why, how and when you engage.

It’s a good idea to think about organised meetings with partners and contributors as engagement. Whether regular meetings or special meetings such as planning meetings, you should plan them, giving attention not only to agenda items but also to process design. A process design will consider the objectives of your meeting and the people, relationships and dynamics. It will structure the process to meet the objectives, in a way that also builds relationships. For example, it is important that all partners get a chance to speak, so going around to each person may work better than just letting the most motivated or ‘loudest’ people speak. Working in smaller groups may help to bring more ideas to the surface, particularly from quieter people. Writing responses down (e.g. on post-its for face-to-face, or in the chat for online) can work better for some people and can allow lots of ideas to be collected in a short amount of time. A design can also help the meeting to run to time and achieve what it needs to. For big meetings like annual planning meetings, or if there is conflict emerging within the project group, a professional facilitator can help with process design and independent facilitation.

Engagement also includes informal engagement, such as morning teas, drinks or meals together. This type of engagement is important, even when everyone is busy. They keep the energy of your project up, increasing its chance of success. They also build community and are a big part of why many people get involved in initiatives of this kind. It’s particularly important to celebrate your efforts and your successes, and to acknowledge the contributions of all those who make the project possible.

Your project will also involve outreach and ongoing communication, which lets people in the wider community know what you’re up to, keeps them updated about developments, and gives opportunities for them to ask questions, voice concerns or get more involved. Approaches include websites (with information and FAQs); social media; information sheets, brochures, posters and stalls. As part of understanding your context and community, you should identify existing channels, such as local social media groups (like community Facebook groups), networks (like good karma networks), and council bodies.

As part of your outreach, and to build relationships and gain input and involvement in planning, design and decision-making, you will also run planned engagement activities, which includes workshops and forums, in-place engagement such as stalls or tours, and online engagement through online presentations, forums, discussions or surveys. These require engagement planning, which is covered in the next section.

Was this article helpful?
Confusing 0

Continue reading

Next: Engagement planning