Even when engagement looks like it failed it can teach you a lot.

I was out on the road conducting engagement sessions for a client recently, which is, you know, the job. However, the local community didn’t exactly erupt with enthusiasm at this one particular session: only four community members showed up over a three-hour period. It looked like the engagement failed.

Did the engagement fail?

Or is the project so popular with the community that they felt no need to show up?

The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.

In this particular case, the broad community engagement is playing out largely as anticipated. That is – the broader community has some small interest in the issue and a limited number of individuals have a very high level of interest.

This notion was first raised in a series of focus groups at the beginning of the program. It was being supported by the broader community sessions.

As this is project was remarkably significant for the region, the focus groups were not sufficient to support the theory so broader community sessions were required to prove it beyond doubt.

What do small numbers tell you?

So, even if nobody is showing up to your community sessions this can tell you a lot. It can tell you that:

  • You need to go back to your stakeholders to determine if your method was right
  • Did you do enough promotion?
  • Is the location right?
  • Are people genuinely okay with your proposal?
  • Is this issue/opportunity not of interest?

A small turnout can tell you a lot, but you need to take it as an opportunity to ask more probing questions and not just assume that it means that the opportunity has closed.

If you want to Engage with Influence, we can help.