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.
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.
If I mention the term project legacy, what do you think of? A statue? A plaque? Maybe it’s just the evidence of the project itself? Creating a legacy is so much more than the tangible results that are left behind on construction projects. Long after your team has left a project behind, they can (and should) leave a legacy.
There have been a few projects in the media of late where community groups have lamented a lack of consultation on projects prior to delivery. Many of these projects have centred on construction and development but a few have involved policy development in areas as diverse as energy, water supply and even the definition of marriage. However diverse the topics, one thing stood out as being in common.
In community engagement, we talk a lot about collecting people’s ideas and feedback. We talk about the power of active listening. But, if you really believe in community and engaging at a deeper, more meaningful level, then empathy should be the key focus throughout your planning, strategising and most importantly-engagement activity.
I recently had the pleasure of travelling throughout the Surat Basin in south west Queensland with a client of Articulous for a week, facilitating community information sessions. There were a few key lessons that I took away from that week that I thought were worth sharing, purely from a practical perspective.
New York is intricate, alive, passionate, and evolving. What became clearer to me on this journey was how the decisions of the community can have long-lasting and positive effects on a city’s identity.
It draws people in without any visible signage or rules, it somehow intuitively speaks to people about how to participate.
However this one particular session did not exactly erupt with enthusiasm from the local community. So what does this mean? Did the engagement fail?