Categories
Community engagement

New report on effective community engagement

On 25 February, a group of community engagement specialists came together in a virtual roundtable event to ask ‘How can we work together to shape our towns and cities for the better?’ Their thought-provoking discussion is presented in an exclusive new report.

Hosted by built environment hub Build Studios in partnership with community engagement app SitePodium, the event offered important insight into how developers can be more inclusive and collaborative in their approach and how local communities can be empowered to shape their environment in a positive way.

As a communications agency that specialises in the built environment and works with clients to develop successful relationships with local stakeholders, Meaningful was well-positioned to manage this event from start to finish, including:

  • Convening an expert speaker panel
  • Promoting the event online
  • Writing and designing a report
  • Designing social media graphics to support a digital marketing campaign
  • Producing a video


Key takeaways

We need to start moving to models by which there’s far more equity in the decision-making process.

Akil Scafe-Smith


Recognising that the built environment has traditionally been shaped by a small group of people and the development process can sometimes feel opaque, the panel noted a palpable sense of change in the air with growing awareness of the issues and inequalities in society, people are speaking up, calling for change and demanding to be involved in local decision-making like never before.

Digital tools offer lots of benefits: it’s a case of using those tools in a considered way to ask the right questions and get responses in a format that’s useful.

Jessica Cargill-Thompson


While traditional and in-person forms of stakeholder communication still hold value in helping developers reach the widest possible demographic, it’s clear that Covid-19 lockdowns have fast-tracked digital engagement across the board. The panel discussed how virtual engagement can still be made to feel personal and that creative responses to online consultations are often the most effective.

Construction firms now understand that proper community engagement is part of the process, not just something forced upon them by a regulatory framework.

Lucas Wijntjes


Panellists commented on how the built environment has evolved over time, noting that developers have a responsibility to inform communities about local projects – and that providing proper access to information helps build understanding and support.

Engagement should be a joyful process so that people want to participate.

Catherine Grieg


The discussion highlighted the importance of making stakeholder communication an interesting, relevant and hands-on experience for the local communities it aims to reach, while noting that “it’s a massive privilege to have time to participate.” One panellist described the value of collaborating with existing civic groups, particularly when engaging with young people “being local practitioners is how we connect to local people”.

If we’re looking to change the way we engage with communities, what should those improvements be?

Helen Santer


The discussion raised some important questions such as whether strong feelings on social media led to actual engagement and how long-term relationships could be built with communities. Barriers to engagement were also discussed, such as shifting political landscapes, being unable to meet in person due to Covid-19 and the availability of internet access by different groups. The conversation ended with each expert offering their view on which elements of community engagement most need to be improved.

A big thank you to Helen Santer for facilitating this vibrant discussion and our expert panel for their valuable perspectives: Lucas WijntjesJessica Cargill ThompsonCatherine Greig and Akil Scafe-Smith of RESOLVE Collective.

Read the full report here or watch a summary of the event below.

Categories
Community engagement

Stakeholder engagement webinar

Meaningful is pleased to be supporting an exciting webinar hosted by community engagement platform SitePodium in partnership with Build Studios: ‘How can we work together to shape our towns & cities for the better?’

Our towns and cities have historically been shaped by a small group of people, including landowners, planners and property developers — yet the communities inhabiting them tend to have little influence over the development process and public consultation often comes too little and too late.

But things are changing fast. Aided by the rise of social media, issues such as the climate crisis, the Grenfell Tower fire and Black Lives Matter are empowering people to speak up and demand change like never before.

Within this context, Meaningful has convened a panel of industry experts to explore the future of effective stakeholder communication. In a conversation facilitated by Helen Santer of Build Studios, speakers will be invited to consider:

  • What does best practice community engagement look like?
  • How can we use existing tools to stimulate ideas and innovation?
  • Which new tools could help us be more inclusive and collaborative?
  • How can we involve young people and other community members whose voices are often overlooked?
  • How do we promote best practice to empower the decision-makers?

Our panel of community engagement experts includes:

The webinar will offer important insight into how developers can be more inclusive and collaborative in their approach and how local communities can be empowered to shape their environment in a positive way.

Join us to discover how to provide new platforms for previously unheard voices and find better ways to make decisions that affect local communities.

Spaces are limited so register now to secure your free place.

For more information contact Natalie Day.

Categories
Community engagement

Helping local communities have their say

Over the past 20 years, working from a range of vantage points in the built environment has given me first-hand experience of the benefits of effective community engagement – and how by failing to listen to the voices of their audience, many organisations are missing an important trick.

Consulting an audience of end-users about their interests, views and needs at an early stage in a project – when there’s real opportunity for people to get involved and have their say – may sound like an obvious process, but too often it gets overlooked.

Today’s organisations need multiple ways for end-users to engage, contribute and offer their feedback and suggestions on an ongoing basis

In recent years I’ve seen how social media and digital technologies have transformed opportunities for stakeholder engagement, offering new ways to reach those who, for example, wouldn’t typically respond to a public consultation. Today’s organisations need multiple ways for end-users to engage, contribute and offer their feedback and suggestions on an ongoing basis. Simply setting up a customer service channel through which people can complain is no longer enough.

Good stakeholder comms is ultimately about listening – it’s about building meaningful relationships with real people, and it can help businesses and investors from all industries get to the root of what their communities really want. And since brands and reputations are built – or damaged – with each encounter, the more we can proactively and positively engage with our audience, the more ownership and buy-in we’ll receive from them in return.

Successful community engagement helps:

  • new and existing audiences to be consulted on important topics
  • build ongoing stakeholder dialogue and relationships
  • demonstrate the transparency of a project or organisation
  • important updates to be shared on both sides
  • document community questions, comments and complaints in a measurable way

I recently shared my take on the importance of community engagement and the role technology can play in an interview with SitePodium, a construction industry app that enables effective two-way conversations between the development industry and local communities.

Read the SitePodium interview here