All posts in Engagement

The truth about common ground and community engagement

Common ground is something that people agree about even if they disagree about other things (Merriam-Webster, 2018). It can be an important objective of community engagement where there is strong disagreement or conflict between groups.

However, reaching common ground is not always an engagement objective. Sometimes it’s an unintentional bonus when engaging with groups with obviously opposed values and agendas.

We recently facilitated a meeting of two groups (residents and landowners) where the objectives were to present a new proposed development and understand the groups’ support for and objections to this development at a deeper level.

There was no specific objective for the two groups to reach consensus or find common ground, and in fact, given the history of the two groups this outcome seemed unlikely.

However, during the course of the meeting, something amazing happened. One of the residents shared a personal story of the negative impacts the unfinished development was having on their health and wellbeing. It was a truly courageous moment to witness and there were a few tears from those in the room with similar experiences.

One of the other group members responded by acknowledging that although they didn’t agree with all aspects of the new proposed development they understood the groups’ struggles and also wanted the new development to deliver solutions to improve the lives of this group.

The two groups had reached a sense of common ground. They had a shared level of understanding and awareness of the needs and perceptions of both sides. This outcome created an environment where there was more willingness to listen, communicate and be supportive.

When people understand each other, there can be unexpected and beneficial outcomes. In this case the contribution made by the groups provided greater insights and the client was able to move forward with their engagement in a more positive light.

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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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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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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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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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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Why exploring digital trends and applying intuition works

To be noticed in today’s avalanche of information, businesses need to engage an audience within seconds. This means cutting through by being intuitive, innovative and truly understanding the audience. Finding fast ways to communicate and using engaging content is essential. Digital strategies are now a big part of this.

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Using technology to create responses

Quite often, a major goal of any communication or public relations strategy is to have a significant impact on the feelings, attitudes and behaviours of stakeholders. The rise of technology like virtual reality offers new possibilities for storytelling and new ways to impact people. As a practitioner who loves the power of the written word, the potential impact for life-changing communication programs to be implemented is both intriguing and challenging.

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Citizen Democracy – making it work for Australians

This appears to be the most opportune time in modern history for citizen based democratic processes to become more prevalent. As perhaps illustrated by a rise in populist politics like Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, that pay little regards to complexities, citizens are seeking answers that they are yet see from mainstream politics. However, this potential comes with limitations.

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What makes a great leader?

Drawing from my own personal experience, there is one exceptional leader who I will never forget. He had a way of connecting and cutting through. His authenticity, energy and commitment to delivering his vision was palpable, you could feel it simply by entering the room. He acknowledged that as the face of a successful company he was never alone, he explained that his success was a collective effort of his team and that he was “standing on the shoulders of giants.”

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Could non-verbal expressions add value to an engagement campaign?

Communication is so much more than the spoken word. While many of us like to verbalise how we feel or think, it’s often the expressions that go with our words that add meaning. The question begs then, could we analyse only those expressions to gather rich and meaningful data?

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The Millennials: How do we engage this new workforce?

Millennials certainly are creating change and challenging our traditional beliefs when it comes to how work gets done. Managers who are traditionally accustomed to a Baby Boomer workforce will need to engage new strategies to retain and motivate this growing group of Millennials.

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