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Is it possible to have an engagement that may not be engaging?

Unfortunately, yes.

There are plenty of examples of engagement activities which fail to inspire, demonstrated by:

- low participation rates

- low-quality responses

- lack of goodwill at future engagements.

Our final Principle looks to the engagement activities where you want people to take part in, e.g the online discussion forum; the workshop; the Facebook page; the survey; the list goes on.

To be relevant and engaging you should:

As you work through the Principles, you’ll begin to understand what makes your communities and stakeholders tick. The better you know your communities and stakeholders, the greater your ability to shape engagement tools that will draw them into the process.

Putting people at the centre of the process means making sure that your process is as accessible and as interesting as possible to the people and communities you want to engage.

Consider the following to make your engagement process inclusive:

  • Timing
  • Breadth of opportunity to participate
  • Language
  • Comfort and access
  • Disabilities in your audience
  • Tools
  • Cultural matters
  • Age and learning styles
  • Literacy and numeracy levels of your audience
  • Digital literacy and access to digital resources

More information about how to address these considerations and make your engagement process inclusive is available on the inclusive engagement page.

To make sure your engagement methodologies capture the community’s imagination and draw people into the process, you need to take it beyond bureaucratic tools. Think about personalisation, using creativity and relevance to make them as fun and as engaging as possible.

Successful engagement activities captivate their audiences and give them a clear purpose for participation. This could mean using:

  • fun and games,
  • prizes,
  • multimedia and,
  • enthusiastic facilitation.

In his book 'Making Democracy Fun: How Game Design Can Empower Citizens and Transform Politics' 1 Josh Lerner provides a number of case studies of ‘fun’ engagements.

For different audiences, it may mean:

  • carefully constructed discussion papers,
  • presentation of data and
  • use of detailed case studies.

Make these as creative and relevant as possible for your participants.

'What’s in it for me?'

If your participants gain something from your engagement, then you’ve made it relevant for them. This isn’t about having their say in lofty policy goals. It’s about immediate value eg. the parent who has some time out during a community conversation because a crèche is provided, the elderly woman who enjoys the company of others when being interviewed over a cup of tea or the food and sense of community enjoyed during a suburban barbecue.

1. Josh Lerner (2014), Making Democracy Fun: How Game Design Can Empower Citizens and Transform Politics

Case Studies