Does Online Community Engagement just mean having a Facebook page?

One of the questions we hear around Australia and New Zealand’s stakeholder engagement community is “does online engagement mean social media”?

It can, but it doesn’t have to.

Think of online and digital media like walking into a shoe shop. There’s lots of choice.

Some are designed for everyday use. Some are for special occasions. Others are hard-wearing, designed for the long haul and almost never have to be replaced. Then there are the must-haves because, well, you’re expected to have them. And finally, there’s that on-trend, “oh-my-gosh I really have to have it so everyone notices.”

There are heaps of tools, here are just some and how they’re being used.

  • Online Interactive Games – to gather information about how people use energy and water to educate the community and to understand the trigger points for change.
  • Augmented Reality Tours – street tours and walking tours overlaying future images or videos from project or community leaders.
  • Virtual Reality Apps – apps where you can be immersed in the future of what is being proposed. Imagine standing in a 360 degree world with birds flying overhead depicting a future life.
  • Avatars – rather than a boring survey that tells you everything and gives nothing back to the participant, some organisations are building surveys that produce a participant avatar (character that describes who they are or what they believe). Avatars are being used for internal staff engagement and community visualisation exercises.
  • Interactive Images – rather than a static image, clients are creating interactive images or maps that you can click on and get access to a video, facts, link to another URL, or a “contact us” form.
  • Live Polling – poll a group at engagement events where the results show in real time and can be discussed afterwards. It’s being used in everything from waste industry forums, to housing policy forums, to deliberative forums.
  • Online Discussion Forums – some organisations are using purpose-built platforms, and others are building their own, especially where they engage with communities over the long term.
  • Collaborative Mapping – where the community can pin issues, opportunities or great ideas onto an online map. It’s being used for transport routes, planning schemes, environmental planning and more.
  • Wikis – the ultimate in open and transparent online deliberative discussions. Wikis are like Wikipedia but are created for specific engagement projects and they’re being used particularly in policy engagement.
  • Many other ways including crowdsourcing of volunteers and technical solutions, mobile app creation for anything, online policy hacks, polling, creating photo montages for the future, live twitter chats and more.

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