How to Engage with Under-Represented Communities

While community engagement is increasingly important for governments who want to strengthen relationships with their constituents, its data-driven insights are most valuable when they fully represent the views of the whole community.

After all, If we don’t engage with voices from marginalised and under-represented groups in our society, we risk delivering project outcomes that fail to serve the needs of the most vulnerable in our communities.

In this article we will look at effective outreach strategies to engage marginalised and under-represented groups in the community, and consider how to use digital and traditional engagement tools to reach and engage those communities too often left behind.

Understanding under-represented communities

At the heart of the practice of community engagement is the need to understand the community we serve. We listen to our communities and encourage them to share their insights and feedback because we know it results in better policy and project outcomes.

But when it comes to under-represented community groups, our task is more difficult. Language barriers, disabilities, socio-economic factors and cultural differences can limit their ability to contribute to community engagement projects.

Before we rush out to try to engage with these groups, we need to deepen our understanding of the barriers they face. A great way to achieve this is to foster relationships with community group leaders, local organisations and individuals within the community who can give us an insight into community dynamics and barriers to participation. These barriers might include:

  • Language
  • Accessibility
  • Socio-economic factors
  • Cultural or familial expectations
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Age

Only when we understand the issues that prevent participation in community engagement, can we start to develop strategies to address them.

Harnessing the power of digital engagement platforms

It’s important to design a thoughtful engagement campaign that will encourage the contributions of under-represented groups. In practice, this simply means to use as wide a variety of tools as possible, in order to reach a wide range of people.

A digital engagement platform, such as District Engage, can help here. Not only are the tools easy to deploy, but the messaging can easily be targeted to different audiences. In addition, the benefit of instant reporting allows you to confirm that your messaging is reaching the right people.

Let’s take a quick look at the benefits of using digital engagement tools:

Surveys and quick polls

Surveys and quick polls gather specific information about a community’s priorities and concerns. Ensuring the survey questions are concise, culturally sensitive, and address language barriers and literacy levels, will help you engage different audiences within your community.

Surveys and quick polls are ideal for targeting specific audiences on social media.

Mapping tools

Interactive mapping tools are a powerful tool that helps people to visualise how a project will affect their community. You can pinpoint areas of interest, such as potential sites for community programs, public services or infrastructure development, and illustrate before/after scenarios.

These visual aids are very effective engagement tools for people with language barriers or low literacy levels, and can encourage feedback on specific aspects of a project.