Establishing a community reference group is a great way to encourage extra involvement from your community and allows you to have a dedicated group of people to engage with on a range of issues.
A community reference group is generally made up from registered participants who have indicated they want more involvement in shaping decisions and helping your organisation with its engagement activities.
Usually, these groups are established to be representative samples of your community to ensure that a variety of voices are being heard. They can range in size from 50 - 500 people and will include people from different age groups, suburbs, gender and other established strata of your choosing.
These groups are usually tasked with special responsibilities over a period of time.
This activities might include;
- Regular monthly surveys
- Attendance at workshops and meetings
- Volunteering at engagement events
- Online deliberation as part of major projects
In order to setup a reference group in EngagementHQ we recommend you follow the below steps.
Capturing interest via your signup form
Since involvement in your reference group will be voluntary, you need a mechanism to capture this interest. The easiest way to do this, is to include a dedicated question on your registration from. Simply use a radio button question on your signup form to capture interest and use a section question type to explain to your community what your community panel will do.
For more information on setting up your registration form, read through our article on developing a registration form.
Establishing your panel
By asking everyone that joins your site if they would be interested in joining your community panel or reference group, you will quickly be able to see this list of people using your Participant Relationship Management (PRM) tool.
Simply select the Signup Form dropdown menu and choose the appropriate question.
Once you have filtered your list to show all of the people who indicated they would like to be a part of your group, you can then use other demographic filters such as age, suburb and gender to start to compile your group.
In order to do this, run your queries according to your identified strata (representative identifiers) and simply use the bulk tag feature to start to tag you participants.
These tags might be related to the demographic profile so they could be "Gender-Age-Suburb".
You can then create a group made up of the right mix of participants that you require for you community panel.
What about running an expression of interest?
We recommend that you run an expression of interest campaign if you are going to setup a community panel. However, we suggest that you utilise your registration form to capture interest instead of setting up a seperate form for people to fill out for this purpose.
This is because your registration form talks directly to your participant database making it easy for you to filter through interested participants. It also saves you the hassle of having to download and upload a list of interested participants and makes it a much simpler process for your community.
What if I have registered participants who want to change their mind?
The easiest way for participants to change their interest in being involved in your community panel is to simply update their user profile.
To do this, simply direct your participants to their profile page. This is easily accessed by using the /profile/edit permalink.
Using your registration form is the best way to capture interest in your community panel and setting this up prior to launching your site is the easiest way to embed the process from the beginning.