We asked Public Consultation and Engagement experts the following question regarding Traditional Engagement Strategies, and they were kind enough to share their insights with us:

How relevant, or applicable, are the traditional engagement strategies in securing sustainable community support?

MANITOBA CLEAN ENVIRONMENT COMMISSION

Chair,
Terry Sargeant
Traditional advertising is not reaching the affected communities we wish to reach. There is so much going on that identifying, getting recognition and conveying the urgency of a project often gets lost. For many in these communities, it is just one more thing. The human touch still goes much further in establishing sustainable community support.

WHITEFEATHER FOREST INITIATIVE OF PIKANGIKUM FIRST NATION

Senior Advisor,
Andrew J. Chapeskie
In relation to indigenous communities, nothing is more important than traditional – i.e. direct, face-to-face – engagement aimed at building long-term mutually beneficial cross-cultural relationships that bring “balance” to resource development issues. Some say that the challenge of engagement is reflected in a saying that can be heard being used indigenous people in northern Ontario: “The company got the gold; we got the shaft.”

CRTC

Chief Consumer Officer and Executive Director, Consumer Affairs and Strategic Policy,
Barbara Motzney
We tend to get distracted by the newest and shiniest gadget and technique, but the traditional engagement strategies still have a place in our collective consultation and engagement toolkits. We all tend to fall into the trap of thinking of the public as one homogenous entity that can be reached effectively in one way – such as social media – but the reality, as we all need to remind ourselves from time to time, is that the public is diverse and not one “magic bullet” exists, and sometimes the “tried and true” is the best way to reach a particular segment of the public.

CITY OF BELLEVILLE

Mayor,
Neil Ellis
Traditional forms of engagement strategies can still be seen as relevant but with the new wave of social media engagement, it seems as though traditional means of engagement are becoming less relevant. Social Media engages many community members along with a wide demographic.

ENBRIDGE NORTHERN GATEWAY

Director of Public and Aboriginal Engagement,
Michele Perret
Traditional engagement strategies are important but we have had to be more creative to ensure we get the opportunity to listen to questions and concerns and provide factual information regarding the project.

ICA ASSOCIATES

Professional Facilitator and Trainer,
Jo Nelson
If by “traditional engagement strategies” you mean that a decision is made and presented afterward to the people with a “question period” where people stand at a mike and spout their position: this process is not only irrelevant but damaging, since it doesn’t get any of the public wisdom into a form where it can strengthen a decision and the negative energy of the meeting makes people angry and drives people away with negative energy.

CITY OF VANCOUVER (BC)

Spokesperson, Mayor’s Engaged City Task Force,
Lyndsay Poaps
Traditional engagement strategies are only as good as the plans and support that go in to carrying them out. The real question is; are the strategies meaningful and does the community understand what is expected of them and how their input will be used? Is the process responsive and does the community have the capacity to fully participate? Many times the process is detached from the participants’ experience. Regardless of the strategy, these questions should be top of mind when working with communities.

ICA ASSOCIATES

Principal, Group Facilitator, and ToP Trainer,
John Miller, CPF, CTF, BA, MA
In a paradoxical way, during this time of increasing reliance on social media, traditional face-to-face encounters are even more important for two reasons: Quality and Security. Quality of engagement increases by creating space for insight, healing, and consensus to emerge and language gaps to be explored. Security is increased when discussions can be held without recording every single breath, decoding acronyms and shorthand, or reading between the lines of emotionally charged communications.

Half-baked ideas and creative/lateral connections contribute enormously to understanding and solution finding. This is less likely to occur in a medium that requires perfect typing and language skills as well as the ability to read the intent behind the words of the author.

MUNICIPALITY OF CLYDE RIVER (NU)

Mayor,
Jerry Natanine
Communities and individuals are more knowledgeable about the ways of the industry. People want to be involved in projects and to benefit from them. Nunavut is seriously lacking in infrastructure. To a point where when an industry comes in they are expected to build or contribute in the building up of local infrastructure.

JACKSONVILLE COMMUNITY COUNCIL (FL)

President & CEO,
Ben Warner
In many ways, traditional face-to-face engagement is more important than ever before. We need to humanize our interpersonal connections, and without seeing the person as more than a profile picture we tend to pigeonhole and dismiss them. Great things happen when we meet each other in person. At the same time, “traditional” methods of public meetings often discourage participation, usually by creating a one-way flow of information without real engagement. Those processes generally need to be updated to more effective strategies for engagement, ones that recognize the need to create new forms of interaction.

Continue reading expert insights on:

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