Online community engagement provides a range of opportunities to complement, supplement and otherwise enhance f2f community engagement processes

Principles 

  • Online consultation is generally, but not necessarily, complementary to o ine consultation rather than a replacement. Note: Exceptions may include projects with very small budgets, very large geographic ranges, or both. 
  • Determine the most appropriate consultation tool for the audience and consultation objective, rather than beginning by focussing on the latest tool. *
  • Develop the overall consultation strategy first and then run the online process in parallel with f2f process using relatable tools, e.g. online survey match f2f surveys.
  • Ensure consultation managers respond consistently to enquiries whether in an online or offline environment. 
  • Build trust through time with the online audience by being consistent
    in terms of commitment to the online space, responsiveness and “closing the loop” when projects wrap up. 
  • As with offline engagement processes, deeper engagement – such as deliberative dialogue – requires significantly more planning and focus on methodology than “shallow” engagement – such as brainstorming. It also requires far greater commitment on the part of the participants. 

Planning & Preparation 

  • Establish the specific role of the online consultation process in the overall consultation strategy, e.g. to gather community ideas; to test existing concepts, or to validate plans. 
  • Carefully plan the rollout of the online tools through time to match the overall consultation strategy. 
  • Properly resource the online component of the consultation strategy. 
  • Develop clear guidelines on “participation” or “moderation” rules for participants and make them easy for participants to find. 
  • Spend time on developing the right questions (whether in a forum, survey, or guestbook) to elicit good quality responses. 

Linking f2f with online 

  • Video key speakers at public meetings and place this online. 
  • Use closed forums to compliment f2f discussions and to provide an avenue for in- depth discussion. 
  • Promote the online engagement opportunities at all offline events. 
  • Promote the online engagement opportunities on all offline collateral, e.g. use QR codes on posters. 
  • Use tablet computers to capture f2f feedback and stories from eld surveys directly into online environment. 
  • Use desktop computers in kiosks/project offices/open house spaces to capture feedback directly into online environment. 

Linking online with f2f 

  • Use the online environment to provide rich and meaningful information to participants prior to f2f gatherings. 
  • Use the online environment to gather thoughts on critical agenda items for upcoming f2f processes. 
  • Use online forums to understand the nature and scope of debate and critical leverage points prior to f2f dialogue and decision-making processes. 
  • Use online guestbook or storyboards to gather rich stories for deeper analysis through f2f processes. 
  • Use online surveys to gather broad community feedback as an input to f2f discussions. 
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