Hybrid consultations: Enhancing community engagement for all

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In recent years, community engagement practitioners have embraced the power of digital participation tools to reach out across the community and seek feedback on a wide range of issues, from urban development to mental health strategies. We’ve embraced online forums, surveys and social media polls like never before.  

It's easy to see why. Digital participation tools can help engagement managers create an agile, flexible engagement strategy with easy access to instant reporting to ensure key metrics are reached. 

But there are drawbacks. Not everyone can, or will, engage online. For some people in the community, face to face interactions are essential. 

That’s why we need to consider a hybrid approach.  

What's a hybrid consultation?

A hybrid consultation incorporates both online and offline practices. For example, an engagement manager might:

  • gather survey feedback online and via and a door-knocking campaign.
  • ensure a town hall community forum offers an interactive livestream option.
  • run a quick poll on social media and via a vox pop at a local shopping centre.   

In this article we'll explore why hybrid community consultations are important, and also take a look at the challenge for digital engagement platforms - what's the best way to support a hybrid consultation? 

Capturing diverse voices

Every community is unique, and supports a diverse mix of individuals, age groups, abilities, work schedules, care-giving responsibilities, and language and cultural backgrounds.

We need to cast a wide net if we want to engage with such a diverse group of people!

To cater for different preferences and lifestyles, a community engagement strategy needs to offers a wide range of opportunities for people to participate in. By including both online and offline methods of consultation, we can reach out across the diverse community, and create a more inclusive and representative engagement process. 

Empowering different demographics

Different demographic groups within the community have unique ways of engaging and communicating. For example:

  • Regional and rural communities: time and distance constraints mean online engagement can be more convenient
  • Culturally and linguistically diverse communities: may require an interpreter or translation services
  • Youth: prefer to engage on digital platforms and social media
  • Older generations: prefer face-to-face and traditional consultation methods.   

An inclusive engagement strategy needs to accommodate the needs of all people, including shift workers, people with disabilities, and those in marginalised communities.    

Hybrid consultations allow us to acknowledge the differences between members of the community and create spaces so everyone can participate. This approach lets us tap into the knowledge and unique experiences across the community, giving us unique insights and a rich source of data for making informed decisions.

Analysing consultation data

Using an engagement platform like District Engage can streamline digital community consultations, and give engagement managers instant access to reporting and analysis. Thanks to a powerful range of  participation tools such as surveys, polls and mapping feedback, you can gather valuable insights and ideas from the community, while also gathering important data on demographics, regions, and other metrics. 

But what about the data from offline consultations? How does this get reported? Unfortunately, for now, data collected from offline consultations such as face-to-face engagements, community events, and public meetings still needs to be manually processed before it can be effectively analysed and reported on.  

But for a hybrid consultation to be effective, it's important to ensure the data from online and offline engagement tools are incorporated into a single source of truth. By collating this data into your engagement platform, you can ensure your reporting is an accurate representation of your entire community. 

Looking ahead: how digital platforms can embrace hybrid consultations

As we look to the future, how can community engagement software evolve to better support hybrid consultations? Here are some things to consider:

  1. Facilitate offline feedback: Hybrid consultations need to be able to easily capture and manage feedback from both offline and online sources.
  2. Integration offline feedback: Engagement managers need to easily input offline feedback into the online system, including survey responses and general feedback, so it can be recorded and managed alongside online contributions.
  3. User-friendly interfaces: It must be easy for offline participants to provide feedback.
  4. Seamless communication: Community engagement software needs to offer seamless communication channels within the online platform and between online and offline participants. Consider tools like email notifications and real-time chat to facilitate collaboration and dialogue among stakeholders. 

Embracing hybrid consultations is a significant step forward for community engagement practitioners, enabling them to design genuinely inclusive engagement strategies that reach out across diverse communities.

Community engagement software can play a significant role in facilitating a hybrid model, and must provide the tools and functions to seamlessly integrate offline feedback into the online system. 

At District Engage, a leading provider of leading community engagement software, we're excited by the opportunity to work even closer with community engagement practitioners to harness the power of technology to empower communities and help shape a better future.  

 

      

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