Engaging on Transport Infrastructure

“I’ve been yelled at. Threatened. Spat at. Cried at. I’ve felt in danger. I’ve felt frightened. I’ve felt exhausted.” That’s how one colleague has described her life as an engagement manager on a major road construction job.

But it’s her perfect job.

“I get to really make a difference. I get to say, come on, how are we going to get through this together.” By now she’s smiling. “I get to make a real difference.”

When it comes to engagement, there are the projects that lift up spirits or inspire us. And there are the jobs where it’s just hard work.

Road and rail construction is tough. It’s about telling people that their land is being resumed. Or that they’ll have to live with 18 months of noisy, dusty construction and when it’s all done, that the road will still be there. It’s about listening, and being empathetic. It’s about validating the concerns and frustrations of community members.

So what do you do when the project is going ahead and there’s only a handful of things we can ask the community to provide input on?

Here are the things that matter most when there are few negotiables.

  • Empathy – No, you can’t shift the road. But you can shift the way people feel. You can listen to them, understand, and let them know it’s hard.
  • Documentation – It’s critical to document needs, and your own commitments. Nothing could be worse for a stakeholder than having their comments lost.
  • Supporting verbal conversations with written materials – When you’re telling someone that you’re going to resume their property or take away their privacy or outlook, it’s a shock. It’s a swirl of white noise. It’s feeling lost and frightened and confused. Unless there’s a take home, then it’s impossible to remember. It’s the critical time to get the facts right and to offer support.
  • The little things can make the biggest difference – Ok, so you still can’t move the road, but you can help community members to find help, to relocate, to understand how to ask for construction workers to be mindful of their children and neighbourhood.

 

No one’s listening, right?

How good are your powers of persuasion? Here’s 5 simple steps to selling the most complex ideas.

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It’s a celebrity… get ME outta here!

When it comes to reality TV, celebrities sell. But when it comes to facilitation, sticking a celebrity out front won’t fool ‘em. And you might pay dearly for the mistake.

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UQ Sport Engage

Almost 1,500 people took part in UQ Sport Engage, initiated to better understand the role of UQ Sport in the community, the needs of stakeholders, and to help guide future strategic planning.

UQ Sport Engage set a benchmark for future engagement to drive organisational change, monitor performance and meet community needs and expectations.

The engagement strategy was built on three key themes including:

  • Awareness – knowledge of UQ Sport’s facilities and services; drive to participate and motivation to interact.
  • Relationship – quality and state of relationships; trust in UQ Sport; shared values and beliefs.
  • Participation and Expectation– use of facilities and services; satisfaction levels; future use, current and future communication; improving the quality of facilities and services.

Digital engagement was key in attracting the interest of a young university cohort. The interactive play dough survey attracted a strong crowd, asking participants to get hands on and select responses to a survey by touching play dough shapes.

The digital survey had over 1000 responses with 100% completion rate, a resounding success.

The engagement was meaningful, easy-to-access, open, forward-focused, responsive, diverse and fun.

Community Engagement Toolkit for Planning

In 2017, the Minister’s Guidelines and Rules under the new Planning Act 2016 came into effect.  These changes prescribe a higher level of engagement and for earlier engagement to be done by local governments.

They also require that the communications plan (comprising communications and engagement) must be “prepared having regard to the department’s Community Engagement Toolkit for Planning”.

Articulous Communications and Leisa Prowse Consulting worked on the development of the Community Engagement Toolkit for Planning with DILGP.

Some key points to consider if you’re a state department, state agency, local council or a developer:

  • The new Queensland Planning Act provides community and key stakeholders the opportunity to actively contribute to the planning process in a manner that is effective, inclusive and respectful of local values.
  • The Community Engagement Toolkit builds upon the good work done by local government and provides a central location for information about current trends in engagement techniques, the benefit of tools when engaging with the community about planning and development assessment, as well as relevant case studies.
  • Cities that have embraced opportunities for the community and key stakeholders to actively contribute to the planning process have succeeded in building places that are celebrated for their enhanced livability, prosperity and inclusiveness.
  • Councils that already use best practice engagement strategies have seen the important role they play in building rapport with their community as well as improving investment and community confidence.
  • It provides a framework that supports efficient, consistent and confident decision-making.

Over time, the kit will be recognised as the main repository for leading practice community engagement in Queensland for the planning system

As Australia’s preeminent community engagement consultancy, Articulous Communications, led by founder and managing director Amanda Newbery, has developed a number of frameworks and policies in engagement at local, state and national levels.

This includes:

  • co-developing key pieces of the intellectual property now embedded in the international quality assurance standards for engagement and the Australian certificate course
  • developing the national online engagement program that has been used by councils and governments for the past three years
  • co-developing the Victorian government’s framework for engaging in the waste sector for MWRRG

Articulous Communications is on the preferred supplier lists for state and local government agencies in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and New Zealand.

Visit Leisa Prowse Consulting

Five things every community engagement person should stop doing

Every day and in every industry we are continually adding ideas or processes. But so often we forget to delete.

When we review or audit community and stakeholder engagement within organisations, we see how passionate our engagement colleagues are. Their passion for engagement means we’re adding innovations and improvements every day.

But what should we be deleting from our engagement practice?

  1. Outdated processes – legislation is being updated every year in different sectors and states. If your engagement policy or framework was completed more than 5 years ago, it may need updating. Since then, we’ve seen new legislation, policies and standards introduced at the national level, as well as the state level in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia.
  2. Newspaper notices – unless it’s required by legacy legislation, a newspaper notice is simply not enough to attract community attention. Very few people read newspapers and even fewer read the notices section.
  3. Burn out of great professionals – at the IAP2’s last engagement conference, I was moved to tears by tales of great engagement professionals who felt burnt out and traumatised by having to work with daily angry, aggressive or bullying behaviours. We need to make sure our colleagues are supported and encouraged on those tough projects.
  4. Jargon – yes, even engagement people can over-use jargon. So if you find you’re spending too much time talking about scope, deliberative, collaborative partnerships, levels of engagement, the DPM, honeycomb profiles and more … then stop and translate to your project teams.
  5. Engaging solely on problems – if you’re only engaging when things are contentious or there’s a risk, then you need to stop. We could spend an entire blog talking about this, but in essence it causes (a) a failure to engage on topics that the whole community wants to engage on (b) an engagement capacity gap – where we unintentionally build the skills of those who always turn up, and diminish the engagement skills of those who don’t (c) we don’t ask the right questions of community (d) our innovation is focused on problems rather than opportunity (e) it can create a false sense of what community really thinks

If you’d like to keep up with the latest in engagement strategies, why not enrol in the Strategies for Complex Engagement course.

We know how to manage complex change

Climate change is an issue facing all of us. Community awareness and engagement around how to deal with climate change is something that a number of councils are working towards.

Articulous recently worked with Moreton Bay Regional Council to plan how to engage with their local communities to communicate climate change related risk and build resilience.

The Council’s objective was to prepare the community for the more frequent, larger and longer lasting extreme weather events that Australia is experiencing, including heatwaves and sea level rises.

In the case of heatwaves, this pattern is expected to increase the number of heat-related illnesses and deaths in Australia, particularly within more `at risk’ community sectors, including the elderly, the very young, people with a disability, CALD communities, low income households, and those with existing illnesses.

Sea levels on the east coast of Australia are currently predicted to rise by 1m by the end of this century.

Through its engagement, Moreton Bay Regional Council aimed to:

  1. Raise awareness within the community (particularly `at risk’ groups) of the very real risks that extreme weather event related conditions pose to health, safety and property
  2. Facilitate behaviour change that practically builds both individual and community level preparedness for climate change related extreme weather events and in doing so reduces their impact on health, safety and property

At Articulous we really enjoy working with the challenges that the future presents us, particularly with the ‘tough’ projects like dealing with climate change.

When engagement gets tricky: tips to get you across the line

When engagement gets tricky: tips to get you across the line

A question we hear time and time again from our clients is how to tackle difficult engagement.

Whether it be highly emotional issues, opposing viewpoints, lack of strategic direction, or differing levels of commitment – engagement can stop short in its tracks without the right approach.

The following tips will help you to navigate often tricky situations:

  1. Understand your stakeholders and their needs. Undertake a risk analysis to ensure you know their key issues, concerns, requirements and how you might approach the engagement.
  2. Have clear objectives around the engagement, don’t stray away from what you are trying to achieve. This is when things can become challenging.
  3. As the engagement progresses, be prepared to make changes. Engagement pathways can change depending on influencing factors such as political or social environments.
  4. Treat everyone with respect, give them equal voices and make them feel heard. You may need to make tough decisions along the way, but your process will be respected.
  5. Keep records, follow up, communicate outcomes and be willing to accept feedback on your approach.
  6. Try to keep the emotion out of it. Stakeholders can get emotional about an issue, but as professionals your job is to be objective with your approach.
  7. When you feel your engagement is not fulfilling its objectives, or there’s a lack of commitment, review what you’ve done and re-assess your strategy. Don’t be afraid to take a different approach.

Why live community forums are making a comeback

In the past few months I’ve had the pleasure of attending a number of live community forums in South East Queensland. While attending these forums it struck me how much has changed in community engagement practices in the past ten years. More recently live community forums, with open invitations, seem to be making a comeback.

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Why staff, stakeholders and community are better at innovation: 5 Insights

The development of new app that will streamline compliance processes costs and save millions to an energy organisation, creation of a centralised system to map capability to automate HR processes, financial commitment by disparate parties to create a regional ecosystem to drive innovation on the ground. In working across innovation, digital economies and smart city work across the country, here are 5 key insights.

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Queenslanders: The State of Health

As our attention turns to State of Origin this week, the team and I have stopped to recognise the many amazing wins that the State of Queensland has championed. Our discussion sharply focused to what we do better than NSW.

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Good presentation skills require us to challenge our preconceptions

What are the elements that make for a good communicator, or conversely, a poor one? Why is it that some have the gift of presenting and some do not? How do presenters stand out when most follow a very similar formula?

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Artificial Intelligence: Is it something to fear or favour?

I am intrigued by the fear of a potential technological revolution. Will technology steal away my livelihood? Will it mean we are devoid or lacking of skills required to fully embrace new technology?

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Let’s talk Citizens’ Juries – with Max Hardy

Citizens’ Juries have proven to be quite versatile for a range of issues and decisions. More recently I have seen some citizens’ juries address more open ended questions, providing directions for long term planning, and identifying principles to inform policy development.

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Project E

Here at Articulous we have been working on a very exciting start up project which promises to be a game-changer in the world of engagement and evaluation.

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Why an Ethical Approach to Engagement is Critical

Ethics in engagement is vital. We need ethics to keep the process open, honest, inclusive, far-reaching, respectful, fair, collaborative, and informative. Without ethics, people lose faith in the engagement process, they don’t trust it, they feel used, marginalised, unheard and irrelevant.

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Good Engagement Practice leads to Safer Communities.

Articulous has been fortunate to be working on a number of projects in 2017 in the Rockhampton and Yeppoon areas and our best wishes go out to residents affected by flooding as a result of Cyclone Debbie.

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The Biggest Loser ratings fail has taught us a valuable lesson.

Watching the latest episode of Biggest Loser (BL) got me thinking, where did it go wrong?

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Could a conversation with a computer change how we engage?

Conversational User Interfaces (CUIs), more commonly known as voice recognition tools or chatbots, have big implications for engagement professionals, and we should be excited – very excited. The question on my lips is not whether the rise of conversational interfaces can help us to engage, but how we can best use them to engage in meaningful ways.

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