A simple way to engage with your ‘community’

There’s a whole host of tools, techniques and processes that we can utilise during community engagement processes. In a recent project it was my role to seek and understand the views of a diverse range of people. Farmers, environmentalists, miners, scientists, councillors and government employees. A bit of a cross-section there….

I was getting their views on the development of a land use plan for an area called the Great Western Woodlands. Given the large geographic spread of people involved I kicked off with an online survey, with the intention of following up with some phone calls.

The online survey gave some really valuable information about the importance of the Woodlands to different people. My challenge was in fully understanding some of the issues being raised. Some background reading helped. So did some web research and discussions with colleagues.

What really helped me to properly understand the issues identified was actually getting out on site. Luckily I was close by with a free day. So I took up the invite from some local farmers to have a chat in person. I drove out  for what I thought would be a chat over a cuppa for an hour or so. Instead I got to ‘go for a drive’ to check out the areas they had referred to in their survey response.

Talk about a really valuable use of a day! We spent four hours in the ute (getting there & back) as well as time walking around some of the key landmarks of the Great Western Woodlands.

This helped me to see first-hand:

  • What they valued so much about the area
  • What had changed
  • The impacts of mining that they could live with & accept
  • The areas they really wanted to protect

This deepened my understanding of the issues put forward by all people involved and assisted in developing a realistic community engagement plan for the project. I strongly encourage you to do the same and get out ‘on-site’ whenever the opportunity arises – you won’t regret it!

PS – coming soon – a short video interview with the farmers at one of their favourite spots!

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Andrew Huffer

Andrew Huffer has over 25 years experience in working with organisations, businesses, managers and communities and at a state, national and international level. He designs and delivers specialist engagement processes, with a focus on facilitating open decision making processes and skill development of clients. He has delivered presentations and workshops at a number of state, national and international conferences.

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