There are so many cool technologies out there that enable us to do more…way more…in terms of how we engage the community. There are social media integrations, dynamic polling, geo-mapping, data visualization, crowdsourcing, online decision-making, and all of these technologies enable us to go both broader and deeper than we could before.
Technology can enable the community to:
- Participate more easily
- Contribute on their own time
- Have a voice when they were previously unable (due to geography, social barriers, etc.)
- Share their opinions, advocate and champion ideas with their networks
Technology can also make it easier for the facilitator by:
- Widening the exposure
- Making it easier to administer
- Reducing manual input
- Doing the analysis
Some advice though: Never lead a conversation about Community Engagement with technology. Technology enables you to do more but you always need a solid strategy around who you want to engage and why before bringing up the ‘t’ word.
So how do you start? Use the Community Engagement Spectrum as a simple tool to ask yourself – what is our public participation goal and how can we fulfill the promise to the community?
Then get creative! Put yourself in the community member’s shoes – how would they want to contribute? How can this community engagement experience be rewarding to them? Remember that just because it can be done online, it doesn’t mean it should. There is so much value in connecting with people face-to-face, so consider technology that invites and enables people to meet, or allows for them to share the engagement outputs with their networks.
As inspiration for your next community engagement strategy, I’ve layered various technology ideas on top of the Community Engagement Spectrum below.
This by no means covers all types of technology and there is a lot of overlap in functionality and stage. For example, a website can and should be used at all stages and I strongly recommend integrating all engagement technology you’re using into your website. You’ll also want to use these technologies in tandem. For example, use your email newsletter to inform your community of an opportunity to collaborate in a mapping exercise. Deeper engagement is the goal but there is always a time and place for informing and consulting your community.