Over the past 12 months, we have workshopped with hundreds of engagement professionals across every state and territory and throughout New Zealand, and this is what we’ve learned about the emerging trends in community engagement.

  1. Digital engagement is continuing to grow – but it’s often ad hoc and without any real strategy of framework for how to do it. Organisations often don’t have a system to integrate all their learnings and aren’t sure how to treat submissions via social media.
  1. Using representative samples is becoming more common – whether it’s for deliberative forums or consensus conferences, organisations are wanting to tap into the “silent majority” rather than just listening to the “usual suspects”.
  1. Pressure to do more with less – budgetary restraints are causing frustration in some organisations who are under pressure to deliver while their teams are shrinking.
  1. Engagement frameworks are not that common – most organisations have a policy but no agreed-upon framework that guides their work in detail. Frameworks outline organisations’ engagement approach, important tools for analysis and delivery, templates, principles, and much more. They streamline engagement and provide consistency.
  1. Evaluation needs to improve – budgets, changing priorities and moving on to new projects are the key reasons most organisations don’t devote as much attention as they need to.
  1. Communities are demanding more – communities know about engagement and are expecting more than organisations. They think locally and act globally, which also means our communities are not always the ones in our local neighbourhoods.
  1. Data, data, data – there’s a growing recognition of the need to collect and analyse data in a smarter way. As the level of community engagement increases, and as communities want to contribute more, we’re dealing with bigger sets of data, from face-to-face, online, printed, social and more.
  1. Elected officials are sometimes more pro-engagement than senior executives – across many jurisdictions, we’re seeing our engagement work is being lead by Ministers or Councillors and Mayors who understand the value of gaining input from communities.