At the heart of any community engagement project is the development of a strong relationship based on trust, communication and service delivery. Listening and responding to community concerns is essential for developing better outcomes for public projects and policy. Thanks to community engagement platforms like District Engage, that two-way relationship is easier than ever to manage.
While community engagement tools such as petitions, surveys and polls have always been around to help us listen and learn from our community stakeholders, today’s digital tools have totally changed the engagement landscape. Digital engagement tools are simple to deploy and offer instant insights into community sentiment that allow real-time analysis to feed into project design from the get-go.
Our Favourite Engagement Tools at District
Surveys are great for engagement projects because they are so flexible: there are a wide range of question types, so you can choose the right approach depending on your audience. You can also design a survey that addresses specific needs or interests, while also ensuring that respondents stay on topic.
Polls are quick and easy to submit, making them an effective tool for gauging the public’s opinion on a particular topic. They usually contain just one or two questions and can be completed in seconds, which makes them ideal for an audience who wants to engage and share their opinion, but don’t have a lot of time. They are often used on social media, which enables you to reach not only a wide audience, but also a different audience - and you get the benefits of instant feedback.
Both polls and surveys also have the advantage of being easy to analyse, especially if you structure the poll or survey with closed questions.
Questions are a valuable tool for community engagement because they allow for a free flow of ideas. When members of the public ask open-ended questions, it allows project managers to provide detailed and personalised feedback. It makes them useful for gathering qualitative data which can be taken as a single source of truth around a project. This approach helps to ensure that all stakeholders are on the same page and that everyone’s concerns are being addressed.
Survey maps are a great tool for gathering spatial feedback, and are often used for feedback on infrastructure, planning, building works and roadworks. Survey maps are useful for crowdsourcing ideas on where things like bike paths should go, and are useful for gathering location-specific feedback from the community.
These tools are great to use in the discovery phase of a project, before strict parameters for the project are put in place. A pin-up board with images is a visual way of sharing ideas, and can help encourage creative thinking. It can help the community visualise their ideas and encourage communication and collaboration.
Discussions provide an opportunity for stakeholders to express their opinions and share experiences while also providing an opportunity for experts to share their knowledge and expertise. Forums are often used for closed engagements with industry experts, such as road safety for motorcyclists.
What is survey fatigue and how can you overcome it?
At District, we’ve noticed that project managers will often default to using surveys for their community engagement projects. This can lead to something that we like to call “survey fatigue”.
Surveys are a very common tool for research and marketing, but people can lose interest in providing meaningful answers, which can lead to lower response rates impacting the reliability and accuracy of survey data.
To counter survey fatigue, ensure the questions you ask are not just deeply relevant to the overall project but also meaningful to the target audience.
Better still, use a variety of engagement tools on your project. This can help you engage a wider audience, and capture a variety of viewpoints. Your data will be more accurate and reliable, and you’ll gather the valuable insights that will drive your project forward.
What type of feedback do I want?
Before you choose an engagement tool for your next project, consider what sort of insights you want to draw from your audience. Do you want to quickly gauge community sentiment about a project; or draw on deep community knowledge? Here’s a brief run down of the type of feedback you’ll gather from District Engage’s community engagement tools:
Instant feedback on customer sentiment
|Surveys||Answers to specific questions
Closed questions provide easy data analysis
|Questions||Detailed and personalised feedback to user queries
Published answers become a single source of truth
|Survey Maps||Feedback on a specific location|
|Ideas Tools||Generate creative ideas|
|Discussions||Stakeholder, industry and expert insights|
Ultimately, the choice of community engagement tool you choose depends on the project, the audience, and the type of feedback that will give you the best insights into your community.