An interactive approach to consultation that builds meaningful community consensus

In today’s busy world it is a challenge to keep our audiences fully informed and engaged. You could pose the question; how can we respond to effectively captivate and listen to our community to create project outcomes that are truly impactful?

This has only intensified within the current Covid19 environment, with communities being less connected and more isolated from their usual touchpoints. Within this fluid context, City Collective has considered how to refine stakeholder and community engagement strategies to increase participation and deliver better outcomes. It is vital that we continue to keep local communities engaged in the strategic projects that will drive our social and economic recovery.

The City Collective approach is founded on three pillars.

Establish a framework that cultivates discussion and inclusivity

Define upfront clearly the issues that we are trying to solve. Ask ourselves as a group ‘why are we here?’ and what does success look like. Establish a framework to encourage big picture thinking that is focused on the challenges at hand and articulate ‘what is holding us back?’ and ‘what can we build on?’ This is the first important step of the journey to effective engagement.

Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions

By asking the tough questions early a group can establish the non-negotiables, the must haves and take another key step to de-risk the engagement and the project. Such an approach accelerates the ability to join the dots to deliver mutual outcomes.

A healthy dose of truth testing

Role playing doesn’t have to be just for drama class. Using scenario testing and provocative ‘what if’ strategies has proven to be a successfully and sometimes amusing way to allow participants to identify the required decisions markers and appreciate another perspective.

Where have we made this work?

We applied this approach for the Main Road McLaren Vale Tourism & Investment strategy consultation. In collaboration with the Council, our team hosted two in person sessions held within the community at the McLaren Vale Visitors Centre. The participants included a mix of local community associations, retailers, business and property owners and residents, who all had enthusiasm and passion for their main street and community.

‍Throughout the sessions we encouraged participants to reflect on the past while imagining the future, with all participants enjoying the role-playing exercises to consider the broader challenges and opportunities. The scenario testing allowed participants to visualise and dive deeper into understanding what is possible and the actions to achieve improved tourism and investment outcomes for Main Road, McLaren Vale.

‍We knew that undertaking community consultation while in lockdown on the Macedon Ranges Shire Council’s largest ever public project, was always going to be a challenge. Working collaboratively with Council, our team embraced a fully digital community consultation with over one hundred participants attending the online session.

‍Embracing the use of technology provided the opportunity for more participants to raise questions and gain more detail of the project. To reinforce this consensus building, Council recorded the session, and this engagement milestone is available for all to relive on the Council Website.

The different techniques employed by City Collective for these projects highlights the need to adapt the way we engage to create the most inclusive and accessible forum possible. This allows all community members and stakeholders to feel there is an opportunity for their voice to be heard. The listening part of these engagement strategies is so important and even more so is the next step we take on the projects to realise the vision and key deliverables that are gained from the insights of consultation and engagement.

Want to learn more about City Collective’s engagement approach or have similar challenges?

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