We always like to kick off the New Year with a look at the latest in digital engagement, and in January, we brought back together the members of the pre-conference DE workshop at the 2017 IAP2 North American Conference in Denver. Dave Biggs (MetroQuest), Charles Connell (Social Pinpoint), Matt Crozier (Bang the Table) and Joseph Thornley (76engage) held a panel discussion, with over 100 people — a sellout crowd! — joining in.
The discussion ranges through a variety of topics. Here’s a sample of the panel’s observations:
Matt: “We can no longer separate digital engagement from in-person engagement — we need to think about how the methods work together. Digital is the only way you can take engagement from reaching tens or hundreds and into thousands or tens of thousands.
“You get more thoughtful responses through online and you can engage when a community is ready. If they’re not already engaged and a project comes up, people will go elsewhere to make their comments — usually on social media, outside the project.”
Joseph: “Online engagement is the last, best hope for restoring trust in government. It’s not about getting people to agree, b
ut about genuinely wanting to hear what’s important to people and how they feel. You also have to limit engaging to issues that are genuinely open for discussion — not in cases where the decision, for whatever reason, has already been made.”
Charles: “Knowing what a community thinks is one thing, but where the people are thinking it is also powerful. Placing people in relation to the project creates a personal connection, inspires ownership of the project and is fun! People love to interact on maps.”
Dave: “We have to ask, ‘What does “successful” mean?’ Agencies want to maximize participation and be certain that the input is informed — therefore, trustworthy — so they have results that are actionable. And if you make it fun and ‘playful’, people will want to take part.”