Are we getting the Engagement Expectation Right?

This week I went to an information session on the Queens Wharf redevelopment. Lots of different people, from many walks of life attended to learn more about what was proposed and what opportunities might arise from the project.

During one session, a presenter clearly said something along the lines of …

“…This session is part of what will be ongoing engagement with industry and the community about the project. We want to involve the industry and community in the project. But this isn’t some all empowering engagement thing…”

I liked it!

Let’s not beat around the bush here. These guys wanted the participants to understand what was planned and pretty much approved. They were interested in participants’ opinions. They were happy to answer questions. But, unless something was completely and utterly compelling, they weren’t going to change a thing and we all knew it.

Not everyone liked it. Some people felt strongly about how the plans could be better and others felt strongly about how the process to develop the plan could have been better. But at the end of the day they all knew where they stood.

I have often seen the community or stakeholders who participate in engagement believe that because they have expressed an alternative opinion that meant things had to change to accommodate them. Often that simply isn’t the case. It is important that view is heard and given due consideration and thought.

I wonder if our industry language of community engagement and community consultation doesn’t set us up for a fall. Let’s face it, the community doesn’t read the IAP2 spectrum.

Not all of us can start our engagement processes by telling everyone it won’t be “some all empowering thing”, but sometimes wouldn’t it be nice….