Are you thinking of hosting a community engagement event?
Engaging with a diverse group from the community with the complexity of variant knowledge and experience can be challenging. If you are up for the challenge and are mindful in your approach, there are rich rewards from hosting community engagement events that truly inform organisations for planning and change.
As with many things in life planning and preparation is critical to ensure a smooth event that focusses on the issue at hand.
In this post we will share with you the principles that we apply to make every community engagement event a success.
Concept to Reality It's all in the Planning
Planning is essential for any community engagement, first consider what the event is to be about, what inputs are appropriate, what process/s will you use and what outcomes you want to achieve. A useful framework was published by the Department of Premier and Cabinet. South Australian Government in 2013 called ‘Better together: Principles of Engagement’ which includes a useful easy to use template.
Preparation includes consideration of who needs to be included in the engagement and why? What is the anticipated scale of the event, how are you going to communicate with the target group and where and when will the event be held.
Mindfulness is a key in the preparation when considering the group that you wish to work with, for example if the focus relates to a chronic disease such as diabetes, the catering will need to be tailored.
Tips for Successful Engagment
Think through where and when a planned event should occur, including the access to facilities and how people will get to an event.
- First contact
Both the invitation and welcome to an event set the tone for the time that is spent working together. The environment pales into insignificance if the connection between people is strong.
- Creating trust and safety
Talk openly about expectations of the gathering/engagement and identify the shared values of the participants
Time is precious to everyone, so plan appropriately, from our experience we recommend approximately 2.5 hours for a small scale (2-12 participants) community engagement.
Be creative with facilitation strategies to keep the session interesting and to fully engage with a diverse group
Ensure that there is attentive listening and respect for all participants, facilitating to ensure that every participant has opportunity to speak and express their views
Expect and encourage different perspectives
- Following through
To conclude an event, describe a forward process including reporting back to the participants for confirmation that the report does reflect their views and gain permission for the circulation of ideas and advice from the group.
Hosting a successful community engagement event takes thorough preparation and attention to detail. It is a created opportunity to work with groups of people who have a rich collective wisdom that can really inform services and engender an enthusiasm to be part of improvement and change.
If you or your organisation are interested in planning and delivering effective community engagement events, then contact us. We can help and guide you to develop confidence to engage with your community.