Community Consultation for every project stage
By definition community consultation is ‘’the process where government interacts with the community and receives advice, tips, comments, criticism observations and reactions which they will actively use when completing projects in and around the community”
But what exactly does this mean?
How do you make sense of this?
And where exactly do you start?
Let us take a look at some of the topics that should be considered when developing a community consultation project, and how you involve the community in successfully achieving project success.
Connect the public with the project from the start.
Making sure the public is involved right from the start: If you decide to involve the public after a project has started, they may feel disconnected from the project entirely as they should have been allowed to provide input during the planning stages.
Ask open-ended questions.
Instead of telling the public ‘where do we put this’ or ‘this is what we are doing’ ask ‘what do we need in the community’ or ‘how can we improve….? It creates an open forum to engage the community properly and garner ideas you may have not thought of before.
Communicate using multiple platforms.
Provide multiple forms of communication for the community to engage with this can be done through, discussions, emails, feedback forms, focus groups, letters, media articles, meetings, online forums, open forums, phone calls, surveys, and social media such as Twitter and Facebook. This allows multiple ways for the public to provide input and share community opinions using their preferred communication method and will result in more people being able to contribute and get involved.
Making sure the community is kept up-to-date as things change.
The community must be notified about any updates about ongoing developments or progress, whether they be positive or negative. It assists in building trust between the government and the public. It also provides the community with the feeling that they are always involved in the process and it wasn’t just a one-off when they were asked about their views and opinions in the planning stage.
Objectives & Timeframe for your Community Consultation
Now that you’ve completed the planning and development stage for your project, it is important to outline clear objectives, timeframe, and rules for the next stages and communicate them with the community.
Agree on clear objectives that have been discussed with the public and stick to them, if you change or backtrack on what was said this can cause confrontation which isn’t good for either party.
Of course, things can change due to factors outside your control. In these situations, you will draw on the relationship of trust previously built as well as clear communication to explain to the community why things have changed and what the implications of those changes are.
Set out a timeframe that your team can meet when it comes to the development of the project and make sure you definitely pass on this information to the community. This ensures there isn’t any doubt about when the project is going to be finished.
Have a grand opening of the new development for the local community so they can feel their journey has been completed with you. Acknowledge their contribution to public events in local establishments thanking them for their input and co-operation throughout the whole process. Along with the celebration also use this time as a reflection and learning process. What could we have done differently? How can we learn from this for the next project? Use this feedback and thought for continual improvement of your community consultation processes and approach.
If you want more tips for best practice community consultation, do check out this post on key steps to successful consultation data management here. The IAP2 website also has some good resources that are worth checking out.